U-23s down, but not out

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

They might feel down and out after failing to qualify for the Olympics, but authorities are doing everything possible to ensure the national Under-23 squad is ready for their match against Nigeria.

The South African Football Association and team sponsors Sasol clinched a deal with Denmark that will see the Danes playing two friendlies against the beleaguered South African side coached by Steve Komphela.

The first leg takes place in Eldorado Park on January 30 and the second is billed for Caledonian Stadium in Pretoria on February 2.

The U-23s' last match against Nigeria on March 26 will be academic because they will still watch the Beijing Olympics in August at home even if they win in Abuja.

Barney Kujane, Safa project director for the squad, refused to throw in the towel.

"In our minds, the team has a pivotal role to play in producing players that will form part of the Bafana Bafana," Kujane said.

Said Komphela: "This is another opportunity to continue building a team that will feed the senior national team. We have managed to produce respectable players in local football, six of whom are part of the current Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana."

Andriesa Singleton, Sasol's group sponsorship manager, said: "We wish the team luck for the Nigeria encounter. This is indicative of our continued commitment to the U-23 team."

Denmark will arrive in the country on Sunday.

Goalkeepers: Lee Langeveldt, Senzo Meyiwa

Defenders: James Madidilane, Nazier Allie, Thapelo Tshilo, Innocent Mdledle, Ramahlwe Mphahlele, Bongani Khumalo

Midfielders: Mkhanyiseli Siwahla, Sibusiso Themba, Lindokuhle Mkhwanazi, Daine Klate, Clifford Ngobeni, Kagiso Senamela, Sibusiso Hadebe, Michael Nkambule

Strikers: Eleazor Rodgers, Lebohang Mokoena, Thulani Ngcepe, Erwin Isaacs and Kermit Erasmus.