Lead by the skilful and at times heroic Ithumeleng Khune, South Africa’s defensive line-up employed during the Africa Cup of Nations will strive for solidity at the back, while providing attacking reinforcement down the wings through the likes of Anele Ngongca and Tsepo Masilela.
Khune’s ability has set him apart in goalkeeping circles throughout South Africa. His passion for the national side and his commitment to the cause has meant he has become an integral member of the side’s defence. Khune kept South Africa in the mix during their impressive friendly performances against Brazil and Poland and has been imperious in-between the sticks for Kaizer Chiefs this season.
The impact and form of South Africa’s premier goalkeeper is paramount to their success during the tournament, as he will provide the team with confidence and solidity at the back.
The Mamelodi Sundowns keeper has been in fine form this season while his club side was seemingly crumbling around him. His consistency in goal for the Brazilians has earned him a spot in the national set-up and his experience means he is playing at his peak at the moment.
He should serve as the 2nd choice keeper during the Africa Cup of Nations.
The only uncapped player in Bafana Bafana’s squad, Meyiwa earned his spot in the final 23 after a stellar first half of the season for Orlando Pirates. Meyiwa has often waited in the shadow of Moeneeb Josephs at the Buccaneers, but took his chance to impress Roger de Sa with both hands, displaying his ability and confidence in goal.
Gordon Igesund took note of Meyiwa’s form and awarded the player a chance to be a part of the final 23 as Bafana’s third choice keeper.
Appearances: 14The Orlando Pirates centre-back has been a dominant force in defence for the Buccaneers during the 2012/2013 season by ensuring his side has conceded the least amount of goals in the PSL. His form and experience means he is currently one of the best central defenders plying his trade in the PSL.
Sangweni’s strength will be put to the test against some of the most powerful strikers in Africa including Angola’s Manucho during the group stages of the tournament.
South Africa’s captain and defensive stalwart will have to contend with his new role as leader of the side during the Africa Cup of Nations.
Pressure and expectation will be heaped upon the PAOK defender’s shoulders as he plays in front of his home fans, who will expect Khumalo to display his talents as one of the most highly-rated defenders from South Africa. He will want to prove he is worthy of the title of South African captain by leading his side to a successful Africa Cup of Nations campaign.
Matlaba has been in sensational form for his side Orlando Pirates this season, scoring some sublime goals including a 45 yard pile-driver which will certainly be considered as one of the goals of the season. Matlaba’s ability to attack down the left-flank means he fits into Gordon Igesund’s aggressive style of play, while he is able to track back and defend due to his pace.
Whether or not he can rival Tsepo Masilela in the starting line-up remains to be seen, but his current form and confidence will serve him well when Igesund has to decide on a starting XI.
Considered as one of South Africa’s finest defensive exports, Masilela enjoyed a stellar career at Maccabi Haifa in Israel before returning to South African shores at the beginning of this season.
He had to battle injury at the beginning of the 2012/2013 season and was only able to make an impact at Kaizer Chiefs’ towards the end of the first half of the PSL campaign. The long-time first choice left-back will face competition in the form of Thabo Matlaba, but his experience at international level will certainly mean he will be considered as a major player in Bafana’s defensive line-up. He is able to supplement South Africa’s attacking reserves with his dribbling and crossing ability.
Bafana Bafana’s and Kaizer Chiefs right-back has been a part of a powerful Kaizer Chiefs outfit this season, displaying his ability to attack and defend down the right wing.
Even though he was surprised to be named in the final 23-man squad, Gaxa’s form and style of play fits into Gordon Igesund’s vision for the national side. Pace, movement off the ball and a great cross means Gaxa will be able to form part of a Bafana side which focuses on using width as a form of attack.
The experienced Bloemfontein Celtic defensive stalwart is versatile, a leader and has enjoyed a successful season so far, with his side winning their first Telkom Knockout Cup in 2012. Nthethe is able to play centrally or at full-back which means he can serve a variety of roles for Igesund during the tournament.
Playing at the peak of his powers, Nthethe is also a goal threat at corner kicks with a good heading ability. He will likely be used as a substitute during the tournament, but his experience will benefit the side both on and off the pitch.
Ngcongca, based in Belgium with Racing Genk, has been used by Gordon Igesund as his first choice right-back during recent friendlies and the composed defender completes Bafana’s defensive line-up with an attacking ability supplemented by his previous experiences as an attacking midfielder before deciding to fall back into the defensive third.
The highly-rated right-back will hope to continue his strong run in the starting line-up, but will have to be consistent in order to start in front of in-form Siboniso Gaxa.