U-23s have to put recent woes behind then as AAG kicks off

HOPE: Under-23 midfielder Richard Rantjie. 16/07/06. © Touchline.
HOPE: Under-23 midfielder Richard Rantjie. 16/07/06. © Touchline.

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

The national Under-23 squad's quest to win a medal in the All Africa Games (AAG) begins in earnest against Tunisia in Algiers, Algeria, today at 6pm (South African time).

South Africa will be chasing their second AAG medal after winning bronze in Johannesburg in 1999. They got nothing in Abuja in Nigeria in 2003 after the team was eliminated in the group stages.

It remains to be seen if coach Steve Komphela and his technical team will be able to win a medal in Algiers with the hastily assembled squad. The team arrived in Algiers in the early hours of yesterday morning and the players were expected to train in the afternoon.

Komphela will need to put whatever problems they encountered back home behind them and motivate the players to do well in the tournament.

The players should also demonstrate a sense of gusto and maturity and prove their critics wrong by showing that they rightfully deserve to be in the squad.

Barney Kujane, project manager of the squad, said the players have shown keenness to do well in Algiers.

"Everyone is ready for the tournament and the players are focused for their match against Tunisia," Kujane said from Algiers yesterday.

"As I said earlier, we have capable players in the squad and we all have confidence in them. It is not going to be easy for all the teams here but we will try hard not to disappoint the nation. Let us all rally behind the team."

Richard Rantjie, Bernard Parker, Luvhengo Mungomeni, Rudi Isaacs and Sibusiso Ntuli are some of the players Komphela will pin his hopes on to succeed.

The University of Pretoria pair of George Maluleka and Dumisani Masilela could also add value upfront.

The second match for the South Africans will be against Ghana on Friday and they wrap up the group stage against Cameroon on Monday.