Itumeleng Khune. Picture: SOWETAN/VELI NHLAPO
Itumeleng Khune. Picture: SOWETAN/VELI NHLAPO

Itumeleng Khune has been recalled to the 25-man Bafana Bafana squad for their back-to-back 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Sao Tome and Principe later in March.

Khune’s name came as a surprise in the squad announced by Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki at the SABC’s headquarters in Auckland Park on Thursday‚ given that the injury-plagued goalkeeper has played just four matches for Kaizer Chiefs this season.

Mamelodi Sundowns’ in-form midfielder Andile Jali was a welcome recall to the national team after an almost two-year absence. Other notable call-ups are Black Leopards midfielder Thabo Matlaba and Maritzburg United forward Thabiso Kutumela.

The matches take place at FNB Stadium on March 27, then on the artificial turf of the 6‚500-seater Estadio Nacional de 12 Julho in Sao Tome on March 31.

Ntseki said Bafana’s aim is to win both games. “All we are looking for is maximum points‚ and maximum points will put us in a very good position‚ especially ahead of playing Sudan [away] and Ghana [home] in June‚” the coach said.

Ntseki said his technical team and Safa officials had an eight-hour selection meeting on Monday because they had a pool of 50 players to be whittled down to the final 25.

Four players from the previous camp‚ the 1-0 home Nations Cup qualifying win against Sudan in November‚ are ruled out through injury. They are midfielder Kamohelo Mokotjo‚ right-backs Thamsanqa Mkhize and Thapelo Morena‚ and left-back or midfielder Thato Mokeke.

Sao Tome is a tiny Atlantic Ocean island off the coast of West Africa‚ population 72‚000‚ with a land mass of 17km²‚ whose national team are ranked 181st in the world and 50th in Africa. SA are ranked 71st in the world and 13th in Africa.

Bafana assemble on March 22. They travel to Sao Tome the day after the match at FNB on a charter flight on March 28.

SA are in second place in group C in the Cameroon 2021 qualifiers from a 2-0 away defeat against Ghana and the win against Sudan.

Bafana squad:

Goalkeepers: Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs)‚ Ronwen Williams (SuperSport United)‚ Brandon Petersen (Bidvest Wits)

Defenders: Erick Mathoho (Kaizer Chiefs)‚ Buhle Mkhwanazi (Bidvest Wits)‚ Thulani Hlatshwayo (Bidvest Wits)‚ Gladwin Shitolo (Lamontville Golden Arrows)‚ Sifiso Hlanti (Bidvest Wits)‚ Innocent Maela (Orlando Pirates)‚ Mosa Lebusa (Mamelodi Sundowns)‚ Reeve Frosler (Kaizer Chiefs)

Midfielders: Thabo Matlaba (Black Leopards)‚ Dean Furman (SuperSport United)‚ Lebogang Phiri (Guingamp‚ France)‚ Andile Jali (Mamelodi Sundowns)‚ Themba Zwane (Mamelodi Sundowns‚ Thembinkosi Lorch (Orlando Pirates)‚ Percy Tau (Club Brugges‚ Belgium)‚ Thulani Serero (Al-Jazira‚ United Arab Emirates)‚ George Maluleka (Kaizer Chiefs)‚ Lebogang Manyama (Kaizer Chiefs)‚ Teboho Mokoena (SuperSport United)

Forwards: Lebogang Mothiba (Strasbourg‚ France)‚ Bradley Grobler (SuperSport United)‚ Thabiso Kutumela (Maritzburg United)