Hlatshwayo out, Johannes takes his place

Bafana Bafana will be without their captain Thulani Hlatshwayo for the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Burkina Faso on Saturday, 7 October at FNB Stadium.

Hlatshwayo has been withdrawn from the squad due to a knee injury, and Cape Town City captain, Robyn Johannes, has taken his place.

Hlatshwayo becomes the second player to be released from Bafana Bafana – his partner in central defence, Erick Mathoho, is also out serving a two-match suspension, with Motjeka Madisha of Mamelodi Sundowns called up to replace him.

This brings to three the number of changes expected at the back from head coach Stuart Baxter after right back Ramahlwe Mphahlele was ruled out of action because of an injury.

Hlatshwayo, Mathoho and Mphahlele all played in the last fixture against Cape Verde.

And there could also be another change in the goalkeeping department as goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune back in the mix after missing out the Cape Verde fixtures following a chest infection.

Pending a shoulder injury assessment, Khune will captain the team against Burkina Faso.

Other players carrying niggling injuries are Bradley Grobler (groin) and Andile Jali (shoulder) – but the national team’s medical team is monitoring them.

All but three players have reported for camp, which started on Sunday, 1 October in Johannesburg.

Holland-based Thulani Serero is expected to join his compatriots tonight (Monday, 2 October), while the duo of Dino Ndlovu (Azerbaijan) and Lebohang Manyama (Turkey) will only report for national team duty on Tuesday, 3 October.

“The biggest problem for the players will have in this camp is that they have under-achieved in these two past games against Cape Verde. We have been massively criticized but now we have to move on and believe. We have to address the issue of self-confidence, self-image, self-esteem – all those selves, and if we can’t do that we won’t give a performance against Burkina Faso, and if that happens then we won’t win. That’s where my focus is at the moment because this is a massive game,” said Bafana Bafana head coach Stuart Baxter.

“We have to go out there and rectify things, but without confidence I don’t think we can to that. They are the best team in the group, they were very competitive against Senegal – in fact they were closer to winning than Senegal was. They are a powerful team, they are physical, they have certain players with very good qualities and we have to shut that down.

“So when you don’t perform the way you want to perform, the first thing that goes is confidence, so we will need people who will work hard, that are brave and believe that we have a chance. The performance has to give us hope that things are getting better, that’s the challenge the players have despite all the injuries – they have to stand up now.”

Meanwhile, the proposed friendly match after the Burkina Faso clash has been called off and Baxter will use the time to work more with his players.