Bongani Zungu in Bafana squad despite disciplinary infraction at Rangers : 'He apologised to me'
Rangers FC's Bongani Zungu was included in coach Molefi Ntseki's squad for Bafana Bafana's huge 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Ghana at home and Sudan away this month.
Ntseki included Zungu despite a disciplinary infraction last month that saw the midfielder having to isolate for two weeks after being caught in a house party with four other Rangers players.
With speculation the infraction may have affected on-loan Zungu's Rangers future‚ manager Steven Gerrard appeared to hand a lifeline to the midfielder with a substitute's appearance‚ if only in the 91st minute‚ in the Gers' 1-0 Scottish Premiership win against Livingtsone on Wednesday.
Ntseki said the SA Football Association had been in contact with Rangers‚ who opted not to impose further sanction on Zungu. Ntseki said he also spoke to Zungu‚ "and he apologised to me".
Ntseki's desire to include the experience of Zungu was entirely understandable given how Covid-19 conditions have decimated his options in terms of injuries and players unavailable.
The coach said‚ given Bafana No.1 Ronwen Williams was the only goalkeeper playing regularly‚ that department was a headache in his selection process‚ hence the inclusion of Kaizer Chief' Itumeleng Khune despite only recently earning game time‚ and AmaZulu's Veli Mothwa.
He said the death of Mamelodi Sundowns defender Motjeka Madisha in a car crash‚ who was being groomed as a young prospect‚ was also a blow to national team plans.
Defender Siyanda Xulu‚ now at Hapoel Tel Aviv in Israel; Thulani Serero‚ now at Al Jazira in Abu Dhabi; Orlando Pirates' Ben Motshwari and Sipho Mbule of SuperSport United were other interesting additions as Ntseki cast his net wide to bolster his depth in the squad.
Bafana team doctor Dr Thulani Ngwenya said Lebogang Phiri and Lebo Mothiba have recently returned to their clubs in France‚ affecting their chances of a recall.
Pirates' Thembinkosi Lorch and Lamontville Golden Arrows' Nkosinathi Sibisi are out with injury. SuperSport United midfielder Teboho Mokoena and Cape Town City defender Abubakker Mobara have recently returned from injury‚ but not in time to make the SA squad.
Kamohelo Mokotjo was ruled out because his US Major League Soccer team FC Cincinnati have been out of action as the MLS has been suspended.
Ntseki had said his life would be made difficult formulating a squad by the high degree of injuries and rate of rotation at clubs enforced by Covid-19 conditions‚ such as no real domestic pre-season and matches coming thick and fast.
Bafana host Ghana at FNB Stadium on Thursday‚ March 25 and Sudan in Khartoum on Tuesday‚ March 28.
After four matches‚ and with the last two to be played‚ Group C is tight. Ghana and South Africa have nine points‚ the Black Stars leading by a superior goal difference (+4 to +3).
Third-placed Sudan have six points (goal difference +2) but seem likely to pick up three more away against group whipping boys Sao Tome and Principe away before the match in Khartoum.
A draw or even a defeat against Ghana will place Bafana on 10 points‚ and needing a win or draw from their final game away to Sudan (if Sudan beat Sao Tome) to progress. A defeat against the Black Stars will leave SA needing a win against the Sudanese to qualify.
The South Africans will also hope Sao Tome can hold Sudan to a draw or even beat them in the West African island nation to make Bafana's task easier.
If Sudan draw in Sao Tome Bafana would need a draw in Khartoum (assuming SA lose against Ghana). If Sudan lose in Sao Tome then‚ even if Bafana lose against Ghana‚ the South Africans can draw at home to Sudan‚ or even lose by a certain margin‚ and still progress.
Bafana conduct Covid-19 tests before the match against Ghana‚ which‚ given they need to travel within 48 hours of the test‚ will also serve their purposes for the flight to Khartoum. They test in Sudan again‚ which will also serve their purposes for the return flight.
The overseas-based players test before leaving their respective base countries.
Bafana Bafana squad:
Ronwen Williams (SuperSport United)
Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs)
Veli Mothwa (AmaZulu)
Thibang Phete (Belenenses SAD‚ Portugal)
Siyanda Xulu (Hapoel Tel Aviv‚ Israel)
Thulani Hlatshwayo (Orlando Pirates)
Mosa Lebusa (Mamelodi Sundowns)
Innocent Maela (Orlando Pirates)
Sifiso Hlanti (Swallows FC)
Thapelo Morena (Mamelodi Sundowns)
Craig Martin (Cape Town City)
Rivaldo Coetzee (Mamelodi Sundowns)
Themba Zwane (Mamelodi Sundowns)
Thulani Serero (Al Jazira‚ Abu Dhabi)
Ben Motshwari (Orlando Pirates)
Bongani Zungu (Rangers‚ Scotland)
Keagan Dolly (Montpellier‚ France)
Percy Tau (Brighton & Hove Albion‚ England)
Sipho Mbule (SuperSport United)
Andile Jali (Mamelodi Sundowns)
Luther Singh (Paços Ferreira‚ Portugal)
Dean Furman (Carlisle United‚ England)
Kermit Erasmus (Mamelodi Sundowns)
Bradley Grobler (SuperSport United)
Ruzaigh Gamildien (Swallows FC)
Lyle Foster (Vitoria Guimaraes‚ Portugal)