COMMENT: Are Mamelodi Sundowns' Caf exploits really helping Bafana Bafana?

Masandawana are slowly becoming one of the most feared clubs on the continent, but is it helping Bafana?

Mamelodi Sundowns continue to thrive on the continent as they advanced from a tough group and reached the knockout rounds of the Caf Champions League.

On Wednesday evening, it was revealed that Sundowns would take on yet another giant in Al Ahly.

This is valuable experience and Sundowns will almost certainly learn from their exploits, but are there any benefits for the national team? 

Bafana Bafana too are on the verge of a golden achievement – a spot at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt. Anything but defeat will secure South Africa’s berth at the continent’s showpiece event.Pitso Mosimane, Mamelodi Sundowns

Over the past few years, many including Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane has reiterated the importance of having South African football teams thrive on the continent.

But is this really the case ,and are Bafana reaping the fruits of the Brazilians' labour?

The answer though is not as clearcut.

Granted, having many South African players experiencing the hostilities that African football can throw at them has improved the character of the Sundowns players, but it is yet to bring success to the national team. This is because while Sundowns continue to fly the nation’s flag proudly, Sundowns players have proved to be bit-part players in the national team fold.

While Stuart Baxter utilised three Sundowns players in their last qualifier against Nigeria in Hlompho Kekana, Tiyani Mabunda and Themba Zwane, this isn’t nearly enough.

While Zwane is a regular for Bafana, Kekana and Mabunda are usually more often than not, used as impact players and not starters as the likes of Dean Furman, Kamohelo Mokotjo and Bongani Zungu have been preferred in the past.

Bafana Bafana, Hlompho Kekana

For Bafana really to enjoy the success of Sundowns, they would need to build the core around some of the Masandawana players.

This was a factor which was apparent during Spain’s dominant years when Barcelona and Real Madrid players made up the core of the team, so why should Bafana not follow suit? 

Just look at the impact Sundowns’ other internationals have had on their respective nations. Denis Onyango is a key figure for Uganda while Anthony Laffor remains Liberia’s star player.

Both players enjoy success internationally with Onyango even contributing to his side’s resurgence on the continent.

Baxter should take heed of this, but going into his final Group E qualifier he has called up just four Sundowns players.

Kekana, Zwane and Mabunda remain but Rivaldo Coetzee has been introduced back into international football following his return from injury.

Rivaldo Coetzee

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Baxter would do well going forward, but now that he is left with just one game that could potentially decide his fate along with Bafana's, the experience of players such as Kekana and Mabunda, who are familiar with North African football and are fresh from their trip to Morocco could be key.

Caf football is the best way for local players to mature and play at the highest level which can only bode well for the national team and the quality that comes through. Just look at Percy Tau and Keagan Dolly, who rose to fame playing in the Champions League and today have earned big moves to Europe.