A little help from Fergie
GORDON Igesund, with his first Bafana Bafana team, came up with a few shock call-ups.
One of these really caught the eye: Kgosietsile Ntlhe.
The 18-year-old from Pretoria who plays for English Championship (second tier) side Peterborough FC, was named in Igesund's 25-man squad to face Brazil and Mozambique in friendly internationals next month.
Igesund and his technical team, comprising assistants Thomas Madigage and Serame Letsoaka, maintain they did not just Google the little-known defender.
"There was a lot of work being done behind the scenes to see Ntlhe's progress. And I spoke to his coach Darren Ferguson (son of Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson) about him and there was a lot of positive feedback," said Igesund.
"Darren says he is a player who will never let you down - just about his best player at the moment. If an 18-year-old makes it in the Championship, one of the most difficult leagues in the world, we've really got to have a look at him."
To make space for Ntlhe, Igesund has dropped Siboniso Gaxa, the Kaizer Chiefs right-back who was injured at the start of the season in his club's MTN8 quarterfinals defeat by Mamelodi Sundowns.
Gaxa made his return last week when Amakhosi got their revenge against Sundowns in a 2-1 win, but it was too late for him to have made Igesund's team.
Igesund said the team he had picked, which will take on Brazil in Sao Paulo next Friday and Mozambique at the Mbombela Stadium four days later, was not necessarily his imprint.
The coach left out 11 players from the squad last picked by his predecessor in Andile Jali, Oupa Manyisa, Thanduyise Khuboni, Teko Modise, Lebohang Mokoena and Tsepo Masilela.
Hlompho Kekana, Mzikayise Mashaba, Darren Keet, Gaxa and Eleazar Rodgers were also dropped.
However, he laid the captaincy speculations to rest, confirming that Steven Pienaar will remain his skipper for now.
"There will be no favours. Players will not just walk into this team. I want all of them to be running to the Internet after training to see if their names are on the list," said the coach. "Having said that, no doors are closed for anyone and this team will obviously change around before the (2013) Africa Cup of Nations."
First time call-ups apart from Ntlhe include Kamohelo Mokotjo (Feyenoord, Holland), Katlego Mashego (FS Stars), Thabo Matlaba (Pirates), Dean Furman (Oldham Athletic, England), Dino Ndlovu (Maccabi Haifa, Israel) and Thamsanqa Gabuza (Arrows).
Igesund also said goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs has sent a letter to Safa withdrawing his resignation.