SA needs Coetzee to step up

VERSATILE: Rivaldo Coetzee of Bafana Bafana could return to his usual centre-back role against Cameroon tonight Photo: Dirk Kotze/Gallo Images
VERSATILE: Rivaldo Coetzee of Bafana Bafana could return to his usual centre-back role against Cameroon tonight Photo: Dirk Kotze/Gallo Images

Rivaldo Coetzee's soft voice belies his tough tackling and a football intelligence that is far beyond his tender 19 years.

The teenager from Kakamas in Northern Cape is a key component in a Bafana Bafana defensive line-up that will see changes from the unit that started against Cameroon in Limbe on Saturday.

Experienced defenders Anele Ngcongca (calf strain) and Thabo Matlaba (mild concussion) have been ruled out of tonight's crucial return 2017 Africa Cup of Nations Group M qualifier against Cameroon at the Moses Mabhida Stadium (7.30pm).

That leaves Bafana's rickety defence in a spot of bother against a side that troubled them from set- pieces.

The street smarts acquired from Coetzee's 19 international matches will come in handy in what could be a relatively young back four.

The injuries to the fullbacks robs them of a combined 75 caps in a must-win game.

Coetzee knows they will have to front up in that department but is banking on his versatility to work for him.

"As a defensive unit that includes the goalkeeper, our objective is not to concede any goals and teams play with the mindset of not wanting to concede. You can look at the goals we conceded and blame our players but you have to give credit to Cameroon. They made use of the chances that came their way," said Coetzee, who replaced Ngcongca in Limbe.

"It was my first time playing at right back but as a footballer you have to be adaptable and be able to play in all positions. It wasn't very easy but the job was required from me and as a footballer.

"Replacing Anele wasn't easy but I had great support from the team."

While Thulani Hlatshwayo and Erick Mathoho are established internationals, coach Shakes Mashaba will have to choose between S'fiso Hlanti and the fiery Cheslyn Jampies as potential debutants at left back.

Hlatshwayo's adaptability may see him slot in at right back while Coetzee could resume his burgeoning centre-back partnership with Mathoho.

Hlatshwayo, Coetzee and Mathoho have a combined 52 caps.

"I don't know whether I'll stay at right back for the game and we haven't talked about it with the coach. We'll get further clarity, but overall we dealt with the attacking threat they posed. I hope we'll be able to keep a clean sheet because we need to take advantage of playing at home," Coetzee said.

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