Stand-in South Africa's Bafana Bafana coach, Owen da Gama, has announced a 25-man squad to play against Guinea-Bissau and Angola in back-to-back international friendly matches later in the month as they prepare to face Nigeria's Super Eagles when the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers start in June, Completesportsnigeria.com reports.
It’s a mix of experience and youth, which also saw the return of those who were blacklisted by former coach Ephraim Mashaba.
In the first tune-up match, South Africa will take on African Wild Dogs (Guinea-Bissau) on Saturday, 25 March 2017 at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.
Bafana Bafana will then face the Palacas Negras (Angola) in the second fixture which will be played on Tuesday, 28 March 2017 at a venue to be confirmed soon
Da Gama named three debutants, Lorenzo Gordinho (Kaizer Chiefs), Phakamani Mahlambi (Bidvest Wits) and Luther Singh (SC Braga, Portugal).
There is also a recall for Kamohelo Mokotjo (FC Twente, Netherlands) and Kermit Erasmus (Lens, France), while goalkeepers Shuaib Walters (Cape Town City) and Darren Keet (Bidvest Wits) and striker Lebohang Manyama (Cape Town City) also make a return after a long absence.
“It is important to give as many players a chance as possible. The national team hasn’t been active since November in 2016 – that’s a six month break – so our mission is to prepare a team that will tackle the upcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup and 2019 AFCON qualifiers," Da Gama told Supersport.com.
"We want to assemble the best possible squad and create a healthy, competitive spirit within the team,” Da Gama added.
Da Gama underlined the importance of the team's fixtures against Nigeria when the 2019 AFCON qualifiers kick off.
The two continental giants missed the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations which Cameroon won in Gabon.
“I have been put in charge for these two games, and we will give as many players a run so that come the qualifiers we are not found wanting.”
Mahlambi and Singh are key players in the South African U-20 men’s national team (Amajita). They have been rewarded for their great performances for both club and country.
The duo was instrumental in helping Amajita qualify for the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup that will be played in South Korea in May.
The long term aspiration of the team was reflected in Da Gama's revelation when he spoke on the need to blood the young ones in the team.
“Vision 2022 is all about having a team ready for the future, and that is why we have mixed experience with youth.
"It is crucial that we bring in these youngsters as early as now so they can have the experience needed when the time comes. We will monitor them during the camp and see how they cope and will take it from there, but there is a likelihood that they could feature in one of the matches because we want to see what they can offer when taken to a higher level," Supersport.com further quoted the tactician as saying.
"For far too long we have always waited for players to be 25 and want to introduce them to the senior national team, but that has to change now – we need to expose the vast array of talent we have in our country,” Da Gama concluded.