The young Bafana Bafana side that sparkled at times, especially in the first half, against Morocco, gave the clearest signs yet that there is hope for our national team’s future.
I thought that there was so much ability and potential on display that it was hard to miss. Suddenly, looking ahead with optimism to the World Cup in Russia in 2018 is something worth doing!
Thabo Nthethe is one of the few experienced heads who went on the trip to Morocco and he agrees that Bafana’s future looks bright with the likes of Sibusiso Vilakazi, Bongani Zungu, Ayanda Patosi and Tokelo Rantie coming through.
“I think you can see these young guys coming through want to do well for the national team. I mean the coach (Gordon Igesund) has also said that no matter who you are, you’re going to get a chance if you do well for your team. I do think the youngsters need to be in the squad for many years to come. Allowing the younger players to gel with some of the more experienced ones can only be a good thing,” said Nthethe.
Close to 46 000 Morocco fans packed in to watch their team and there is always a risk of young players being overawed by the occasion. However, I felt that Sibusiso Vilakazi gave a mature and composed first half performance. He seemed unphased by the pressure and wasn’t afraid to dish out some strong tackles in midfield either. Nthethe agrees that Vilakazi was composed almost beyond belief!
“Sbu didn’t panic, he didn’t show he’s scared of them. He went to the field and played very well. I think you are going to see many more guys like him in our team. Coach saw what ‘Sbu’ could do and he’s happy with his performance.”
Other players I thought gave exciting displays were Ayanda Patosi, Bongani Zungu and Daylon Claasen. All three look so comfortable with the ball at their feet and they aren’t afraid to take on players either. I had my reservations about Claasen, I’ll be honest. I thought, ‘How good is he really if he plays his club football in a lesser known league like Poland?’
I’m glad I was wrong – Claasen was the brightest Bafana player on the pitch for me. He reminded me of Steven Pienaar except that he had more pace about him. I’m quite surprised that he finds himself playing for Lech Poznan in the Polish Premier League, given his obvious ability.
I’d like to see him work his way to a more elite European league because I think he can do it. The higher the league level he plays the better for Bafana’s future because he’ll improve and get better.
Nthethe agrees that Claasen is a class act, “Daylon was keeping the ball very well. He was making sure the team was playing with pace and speed. A lot of people are saying he plays similar to Steven Pienaar. I don’t see the difference either. He’s a good player and I think for the years to come he’s going to be a top performer.”
So, where does this leave our national team now that these younger stars are coming through?
In my view it gives us a solid base and foundation to work from. The match day squad that faced Morocco had an average age of 24. In four years time in the lead up to the World Cup in Russia, some of this group will be reaching their peak as players.
If they are allowed time to grow under Igesund's mentorship, I certainly believe that we can reach another World Cup. That's why I'm confident in saying that Zungu, Vilakazi and co are very much our future and I'm excited by what they could go on to produce.
Now, if we can just get Thulani Serero on the same page...
Give it to me, I'm in space!