Molefi Ntseki's plans off the tracks

Tshegofatso Mabasa of Orlando Pirates.
Tshegofatso Mabasa of Orlando Pirates.
Image: Lee Warren / Gallo Images

Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki deems Tshegofatso Mabasa's regression at Orlando Pirates as a sad thing for the national team, hinting he'd earmarked the striker for a call-up the time he was playing and scoring.

Mabasa, 23, was one of the early pacesetters in the race for the Golden Boot, netting six goals within the first 12 league games of the season. All his goals came under the stewardship of Rulani Mokwena before he was replaced by Josef Zinnbauer in December.

Zinnbauer's arrival saw Mabasa fall down the pecking order, with Malawian Gabadinho Mhango assuming the first-choice role up front. Mhango has since managed 14 league goals, topping the scoring charts, while Mabasa has played just 13 minutes of the three games he's featured in under the German.

By the look of things, even Zakhele Lepasa is now ahead of Mabasa in the order, while Mabasa was banished to the stands, when Mhango was suspended against Bidvest Wits in the Nedbank Cup first round two weeks ago.

Ntseki has since given an inkling of how Mabasa's lack of game time at Pirates has somehow hampered his plans. Bafana next face Sao Tome and Principe in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers at FNB Stadium on March 27, with the return leg away four days later.

"I am profiling every player who's doing well and Tshegofatso was one of those players [when he was in-form]. It's a big challenge when a player you are looking at loses form or drops to the bench because now you have to look elsewhere," Ntseki said.

"It's a pity that he's not playing because he is a talented local player. The coaches at Pirates see how he's performing at training and it's also about the strategy they are using, so I can't interfere with that because we all see that Gaba [Mhango] is in great form."

Interestingly, AmaZulu striker Bonginkosi Ntuli is the only South African in the top-five of leading scorers. He is neck-and-neck with Knox Mutizwa (Zim, Arrows), Peter Shalulile (Namibia, Highlands) and Samir Nurkovic (Serbia, Chiefs) on 11 goals.

But Ntseki is unlikely to resort to Ntuli, with his favourite forwards Percy Tau (Club Brugge, Belgium) and Lebo Mothiba (Strasbourg, France) also in a similar situation as Mabasa, playing second fiddle to other marksmen.

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