Settled core, but Hugo Broos still searching for Bafana forwards

BONGOKUHLE Hlongwane may feature more regularly for Bafana next year, once the US club league starts. Photo: BackpagePix

BONGOKUHLE Hlongwane may feature more regularly for Bafana next year, once the US club league starts. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Jun 15, 2024


AFTER four 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifiers, national team coach Hugo Broos has worked out the core of the squad that will bid to secure Bafana Bafana a ticket to the global showpiece in Canada, Mexico and the United States.

There are six remaining qualifiers, which will be played between March and October next year.

Bafana Bafana will be looking to close out the qualifying campaign by topping African Group C.

There are nine African groups and only the winners will qualify automatically for the 48-team World Cup, which starts in June 2026.

Group C includes former African champions South Africa (1996) and Nigeria (1980, 1994, 2013).

Nigeria are No 3 in Africa and have been favourites to top the group ahead of Bafana, Africa’s 10th-ranked side.

However, the Nigerians are going through a rough patch and are winless after four games.

This situation has augured well for the South Africans, who have seven points, four more than Nigeria.

Judging by the game-time players enjoyed in the four qualifiers, it looks like the SA coach has decided on the players who will bear the brunt of the campaign to the end.

They are Ronwen Williams, Teboho Mokoena, Siyanda Xulu, Aubrey Modiba, Sphephelo Sithole, Percy Tau, Themba Zwane and Khuliso Mudau.

Five of these eight players are from African Football League (AFL) champions Mamelodi Sundowns, and Broos may have decided for various reasons that these players would be the team’s core.

It also appears that the Belgian mentor has opted for players who are best suited to the team’s goal of success rather than the player’s potential.

A case in point is Orlando Pirates star Tshegofatso Mabasa, the top scorer in the DStv Premiership last season with 16 goals, but who has failed to make the Bafana squad, with runner-up Iqraam Rayners of Stellenbosch FC preferred.

Broos has often not made popular choices, but when explaining his selections, he said he opted for players who fit into a team capable of coping with the changing dynamics of the game.

There could be a few more additions to the squad by the time the next fixture materialises in mid-March 2025.

These changes could come about because of the selection claims of the US-based players who are out of favour because they have been inactive.

— SABC Sport (@SABC_Sport) June 12, 2024

Their season will be in full swing by February 2025, and players like Bongokuhle Hlongwane, Njabulo Blom and Cassius Mailula could stake selection claims if they perform consistently.

Broos has used Hlongwane often during his first year as national team coach.

The midfield and defence seem like settled units in the squad.

However, it seems as if Broos has yet to decide on a forward line.

Tau has been used up front more than any other striker in the starting line-up, but his form has been disappointing.

Broos has great faith in him, but another average showing could see him end up on the substitutes’ bench.

Of all the players in the national squad, no one has a bigger profile than Lyle Foster of Burnley FC.

Broos used the Soweto-born former Pirates striker sparingly in the two recent matches, but he is likely to be a key player next year.

Burnley have been relegated from the Premier League, but Foster could return to the English top flight because several clubs are chasing his signature. He is on the wanted lists of Newcastle United, Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest.