Editorial: Mashaba and Bafana's uneven road to Morocco begins

Shakes Mashaba took over as Bafana Bafana coach on Monday, just four days before the senior national team takes part in their first 2015 Afcon qualifier match away to Sudan on F...

For the 64-year-old mentor, life under the South Africa Football Association (Safa) banner has sent his world into overdrive.

Less than 24 hours after guiding the SA under-20 national team to a 3-2 aggregate win over Cameroon in Polokwane, Mashaba now has the unenviable task of turning around the senior national team’s fortunes.

Amajita qualified for the African Youth Championships in Senegal next year, courtesy of the victory in Polokwane in what marked Mashaba’s final game with his beloved youngsters.

High on the agenda at Monday’s media conference at the team’s base in Auckland Park, Johannesburg, was the question of time, something Mashaba has not been blessed with.

Bafana took part in two training sessions on Monday, as would be the case on Tuesday, before the team board a charted flight to Khartoum early Wednesday morning.

But for the new man at the helm, time was not a factor for his group of 23.

“There will never be enough time, you can get six weeks, it still does the same. You can get six days, you get whatever,” Mashaba said calmly.

“Our players are playing football week in and week out. It’s not something new to go play other countries. It’s something that goes with players when you talk to them. There are only two things in football, it’s attacking and defending.”

Clearly a man with a vision, Mashaba has already signaled his intent to use the knowledge gained from the junior structures and transfer it into the Bafana ranks, banking on the youngsters that he mentored.

Three players from the victorious Amajita squad have been included for the trip to Sudan, with under-20 captain Ayabulela Magqwaka, Rivaldo Coetzee and Dumisani Msibi all part of Mashaba’s youthful outfit.

As is always the case, there were plenty of surprise omissions from Mashaba’s first squad as Gordon Igesund’s replacement.

The biggest surprise is undoubtedly the absence of Ajax Amsterdam playmaker Thulani Serero. The 24-year-old is arguably the country’s best foreign export in recent seasons.

Serero has not only made his mark with the Dutch giants, but has successfully nailed down a permanent and regular starting role at the club that last week were drawn alongside Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and APOEL in this season's Uefa Champions League.

The group is any ambitious player’s dream and Serero will no doubt play a massive role for the club as they attempt to qualify for the latter stages. Still, it was not enough to impress Mashaba.

Another notable absentee is Kermit Erasmus, who has come good at Orlando Pirates and finds himself in a purple patch of late, scoring at will in the domestic league.

Mashaba has left the task of scoring to AFC Bournemouth striker Tokelo Rantie, while there were some interesting choices alongside the England-based attacker.

Bongani Ndulula (AmaZulu), David Zulu (Chippa United) and Bongi Ntuli (Mamelodi Sundowns) were the other players selected upfront, which raised a few eyebrows when the squad was announced in August.

It will be interesting to see whether the trio can step up to the plate on the international stage and Mashaba will ideally use them sparingly as he gently eases them into the senior team.

Despite the surprises, Mashaba was lauded for naming a strong midfield, even without Serero.

Kamohelo Mokotjo is in the from of his life and will be a strong contender in the middle of the park. Other foreign-based midfielders include Dean Furman and highly-rated former Pirates linchpin, Andile Jali.

On face value, Mashaba should have enough fire-power to overcome world number 115-ranked Sudan.

But Nigeria, the defending Africa Cup of Nations champions, poses a completely different threat and one South Africa will have to face head-on, should they stand any chance of beating their hoodoo team.