FEATURE: Were Sundowns or Kaizer Chiefs players more important for Bafana?

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Downs and Chiefs had nine players between them in the Bafana squad; the players who are regulars at club level and likely to feature on Saturday night

Saturday’s PSL match between Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns will be full of quality on the field of play, with both teams boasting international stars.

Apart from the three points that will be at stake on the day, this encounter will also give the nation an idea of who has better players and depth going into the final matches of the current season.

Goal is asking whether Chiefs or Sundowns players were more important for Bafana Bafana in the recent international break, which saw the South African senior national team beat Guinea-Bissau and draw against Angola.

Both had nine players between them in the squad; the players who are regulars at club level and are all likely to feature this coming weekend.

However, not all of them were given a run in the two matches, even though they remain important to their respective clubs.   

Sundowns had Tiyani Mabunda, Hlompho Kekana, Themba Zwane, Percy Tau, Tebogo Langerman, while Amakhosi were represented by Erick Mathoho, Ramahlwe Mphahlele, Itumeleng Khune, Lorenzo Gordinho in the squad.

Themba Zwane and Percy Tau - Mamelodi Sundowns

The inclusion of the three of Amakhosi defenders in the starting line-up against Guinea-Bissau proved that Steve Komphela’s team has a solid defense, and the quality in that department cannot be overlooked.

Khune is South Africa’s No.1 goalkeeper, and he doesn’t need to prove himself to anyone anymore, while Mathoho and Mphahlele are established defenders who have been exposed to international football before.

The trio performed tremendously well, and the fact that Owen Da Gama showed faith in their defensive partnerships, means there’s something special about the Glamour Boys.

They were shaky at times against Guinea-Bissau, but hardly put their foot wrong. Perhaps, some would feel they should have done better to prevent the African Wild Dogs from scoring that consolation goal midway through the second half, but mistakes are part of the game, and if there aren’t mistakes, all football matches would be a bit boring.

Their contribution was immense, and even in the second match against Angola without Khune, who was left on the bench, Tower and Rama still represented the country well, and would hope to keep take the same performance into Saturday’s game against a very rampant Sundowns team.

Erick Mathoho and Ramahlwe Mphahlele - Kaizer Chiefs

Gordinho might not have featured for Bafana, but he surely learnt a lot from the 24 players he was around with for over a week. Even though we didn’t see him, he surely contributed by pushing the likes of Mathoho and Hlatshwayo at the training grounds.

The four Glamour Boys played their roles in different ways, but Gordinho would be disappointed not have made his Bafana Bafana debut. He will get the opportunity to prove to Da Gama that he deserved some minutes in the two friendlies when Sundowns visit the Calabash. After all, Gordinho has a knack for scoring important goals, and putting one past Sundowns this coming weekend would be enough to forget about the disappointment of not playing for his country.

Sundowns on the other hand, were expected to dominate the Bafana squad given their continental success over the past 12 months, and Da Gama had no choice but to give as many players a chance as possible.

It was surprising though to see Kekana on the bench in both matches, even though he was introduced late in the second half at the Moses Mabhida Stadium. Apart from pulling the right strings in the middle of the park soon after his introduction, the Sundowns skipper won Bafana the penalty which was converted by Andile Jali; the goal which sealed Bafana's win on the day.  

Zwane was handed a start, but didn’t really look sharp, but he was dangerous when he combined with Keagan Dolly, Kamohelo Mokotjo, Thulani Serero and Kermit Erasmus, and his ‘not so impressive’ performance must have influenced Da Gama’s decision to relegate him to the bench against Angola.

Langerman and Tau stole the show in both games, and what a start to an international career for the 22-year-old attacker! His excellent displays against Guinea-Bissau and Angola wouldn't have done his long term chances any harm.

Tebogo Langerman Bafana Bafana

Langerman showed the hunger to reclaim his place in the Bafana team, and Steve Komphela should be concerned that he could be facing a resurgent, experienced left-back who doesn’t seem to slow down.

Mabunda is a quality midfielder, but he's not himself when playing for Bafana. His work rate is unquestionable, but maybe he missed his ‘partner in crime’ in midfield - Kekana - although it doesn’t look like the two will play together at national team any time soon.

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Remember how both Jali and Oupa Manyisa were always kept apart at Bafana despite their brilliant partnership for Orlando Pirates? Well, it looks like we have the same situation on our hands again, and we may not see what the two midfield kingpins can offer the national team as partners.   

In conclusion, all nine players were important for Bafana, but as we all know, some will always be more important than others. Opinions will differ as to who those players were, but given the number of Sundowns players who featured in both matches, the Masandawana fans would feel their star players were more important.

Those players with a point to prove will have to wait for Saturday’s league encounter in Soweto to settle the score.

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