New South Africa coach Pitso Mosimane followed a predictable path when naming his squad for a CAF Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on 4 September against Niger.
He included 16 of the 23-man 2010 FIFA World Cup™ squad for the first-round Group G showdown against the central Africans at the 40,000-seat Mbombela Stadium in the north-east city of Nelspruit.
Fullback Lucas Thwala and midfielder Kagisho Dikgacoi were ruled out by injuries for a match Bafana Bafana (The Boys) must win with stiffer tests against Sierra Leone and defending champions Egypt to come. A Mosimane commitment to youth effectively ruled three 30-plus stars -- centreback Matthew Booth, midfielder Surprise Moriri and striker Siyabonga Nomvete -- out of the game.
With the coach settling for two goalkeepers, there was no room for Cup third choice Shuaib Walters and Belgium-based midfielder Lance Davids has fallen out of favour. Davids was the only South African to clinch a move abroad after the world tournament, swapping Ajax Cape Town for bottom-of-the-table Belgian outfit Lierse.
Keeping a promise made when he succeeded veteran Brazilian coach Carlos Alberto Parreira after South Africa made a first-round Cup exit, Mosimane included several rising stars. Among them are defenders Happy Jele and Kevin Ritchie, midfielders Andile Jali and Daylon Claasen and striker Kermit Erasmus with the last two playing last year in the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
Mosimane confessed at a news conference that he knew little about the Niger Mena, who were 79 places below their rivals in the FIFA/Coca-Cola world rankings this month. "All I have been able to find out is that they have two dangerous strikers but we have enough class centrebacks in Morgan Gould, Bongani Khumalo and Aaron Mokoena to neutralise them.
The landlocked, uranium-rich country have shown dramatic improvement on the football field this year, reaching the African Nations Championship tournament for the first time after shocking Nigeria in a two-leg qualifier. And league and cup winners ASFAN -- a military club based in capital Niamey -- this month became the first Niger side to reach the group phase of the second-tier African Confederations Cup competition.
Goalkeepers: Moeneeb Josephs (Orlando Pirates), Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs)
Defenders: Morgan Gould and Bongani Khumalo (SuperSport Utd), Happy Jele and Innocent Mdledle (Pirates), Siboniso Gaxa (Mamelodi Sundowns), Tsepo Masilela (Maccabi Haifa/ISR), Aaron Mokoena (Portsmouth/ENG, capt), Siyabonga Sangweni (Lamontville Golden Arrows), Anele Ngcongca (Genk/BEL), Keegan Ritchie (Moroka Swallows)
Midfielders: Andile Jali, Daine Klate and Teko Modise (Pirates), Reneilwe Letsholonyane and Siphiwe Tshabalala (Chiefs), Daylon Claasen (Lierse/BEL), Thanduyise Khuboni (Arrows), Steven Pienaar (Everton/ENG), Macbeth Sibaya (Rubin Kazan/RUS)
Strikers: Kermit Erasmus (SuperSport), Katlego Mphela (Sundowns), Sthembiso Ngcobo (Chiefs), Bernard Parker (Twente/NED)