Local News - Issue 249

Orlando Pirates are set to offer Equatorial Guinea goalkeeper Felipe Ovono a three-year deal. The 21-year-old, who impressed as his country reached the Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals last month, has been training with the Buccaneers in the hopes of winning a contract. A KickOff.com source at the club says the player has done enough to impress the technical team and will put pen to paper on a three-year deal soon. Ovono’s expected arrival will raise questions over Brighton Mhlongo’s future. Pirates signed Siyabonga Mpontshane in January, and also have Philani Zikalala on their books.

South Africa U-20 coach Thabo Senong expects his charges to raise their game against Mali on Thursday at the CAF African Youth Championship in Saly, Senegal. Amajita lost 2-0 to a dominant Ghana in their tournament opener on Monday afternoon. The semi-finalists at the competition will qualify for the Fifa U-20 World Cup, taking place in May in New Zealand. Senong refused to mention who impressed against Ghana, but midfielder Pule Maraisane and defender Ayabulela Magqwaka gave promising performances. “I am disappointed at the showing. That is not the Amajita we all know but we will correct these mistakes in the next game. We have to come good, we have no choice,” he said. The coach bemoaned two costly mistakes in the first half as the moments that defined the contest. First, defender Aubrey Modiba pushed the ball past his own keeper in the opening minutes and a minute from half-time, the otherwise reliable goalkeeper Dumsani Msibi rushed off his line, leaving his area exposed, allowing the aggressive Benjamin Tetteh to lob the ball into an empty net. Senong said Amajita have no choice now but to produce the goods in their upcoming game. “It is time to go to the drawing board; we are down but definitely not out. Mali won’t be easy but we have to come out with guns blazing. We have little choice.” South Africa will end their group campaign on Sunday against Zambia, who lost 1-0 to Mali.

Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns will be hoping to survive a stern 12-day period in which their survival in three competitions will be tested. The triple challenge staring the ‘big three’ involves the Absa Premiership, Nedbank Cup and continental commitments in the Champions League (Chiefs and Sundowns) and Confederations Cup (Pirates).

South Africa U-23 coach Owen da Gama has named his first squad that will play Palestine on Saturday in a friendly. The team started training today at University of Johannesburg sports complex as they prepare for an All Africa Games qualifier against Sudan on March 21, as well as for the 2016 Olympic qualifiers. "We will use this friendly match as part of preparations for our upcoming All Africa Games qualifier against Sudan to be played on 21 March 2015, in Sudan. This team is on an interesting journey as we build up to the 2016 Rio Olympics," Da Gama said. "This is the beginning of assembling a quality pool of players; a lot of players are still going to be monitored. However, this is our starting point as we all know that the availability of players for the U23s has always been a challenge. But we hope to find raw and exciting talent. We will also look into the U-17 and U-20 squad. We will have a very busy year and the players that have been identified for this pool have shown immense dedication since the camp begun this past weekend. Kaizer Chiefs have the most players in the squad, but all six are battling for regular game-time in the first team.

Clement Ramakgasha (Jomo Cosmos)
Thakasani Mbanjwa (University of Pretoria)
Tshepo Mamabolo (Platinum Stars)
Mbongeni Gumede (Orlando Pirates)
Junior Sibande (University of Pretoria)
Simphiwe Mtsweni (Kaizer Chiefs)
Sifiso Nkosi (NWU Vaal FC)
Lorenzo Gordinho (Kaizer Chiefs)
Jason Skippers (M. Tigers FC)
Zitha Macheke (Kaizer Chiefs)
Tshepiso Sathekge (SuperSport United)
Chris Matombo (Kaizer Chiefs)
Avela Cezu (M. Tigers FC)
Menzi Masuku (Orlando Pirates)
Paseka Sekese (Bidvest Wits)
Bafana Dlamini (Remember Academy)
Itumeleng Moshabane (Kaizer Chiefs)
Andisiwe Mtsila (Kaizer Chiefs)
Khayelihle Shozi (M. Tigers)
Keoikantse Mosiatlhago (Bidvest Wits)
Snethemba Ngidi (SuperSport United)
Sibusiso Mahlangu (Orlando Pirates)
Tshegofatso Mabasa (Bloemfontein Celtic)

Kaizer Chiefs might have scored just once and picked up just five points out of 12 this year, but they remain firmly in control of their destiny in this title march – and on course to break the points record. Mamelodi Sundowns set that mark of 65 points – the highest since the PSL became a 16-team league at the start of 2002/03 – last season as they powered their way to their sixth league title. As it stands, Chiefs need 15 points to surpass that record, and a further two to ensure they claim the title – that is, of course, assuming Sundowns win their remaining nine games. At this stage Amakhosi still have the luxury of dropping as many as seven points – half of the total that has slipped through their fingers to date - and still finish as champions in May. Chiefs have already set the longest unbeaten League run in a single season (19 games), the highest half-season tally (37 points), and have been the quickest to reach 50 points since the PSL became a 16 team league.

Tottenham Hotspur defender Bongani Khumalo’s contract is up at the end of the season but the player has yet to decide on his future. The former Bafana Bafana captain has been appearing in Tottenham’s Under-21 side since recovering from a long-term knee injury.  But with Spurs pushing for an Uefa Champions League spot under new coach Mauricio Pochettino, Khumalo will find it hard to win a place in the first team. The London outfit are also yet to show an interest in renewing Khumalo's deal. “His contract is up in June but we haven’t had any discussions regarding what will happen in future,” Khumalo's agent Glyn Binkin said. “Lately he has been playing in Under-21 because they do allow overage players. But it’s a competitive League and it’s good for him. The club is happy that he is back from injury and happy to have him back. But they have an option to keep him if they want to and we will see what happens in future.” Khumalo has not played for Spurs in a competitive game since his arrival from SuperSport United in December 2010. The 28-year-old has had loan spells at Doncaster Rovers, Preston North End, Reading FC and PAOK Thessaloniki.

SAFA president Danny Jordaan has explained why the association failed to secure a friendly against Argentina. Bafana Bafana will instead play Nigeria on March 29 at Mbombela Stadium at 16h00, but before this announcement today there were reports that Lionel Messi and company could be coming to South Africa for a friendly against Shakes Mashaba’s boys. Jordaan explains: “The match we looked at was Argentina, but they were clear that it is the cup of nations for South America and that a match this year will not be possible.” Copa America will take place from June 11 until July 4 in Chile. As for reports that SAFA also considered Australia, Jordaan added that it was merely media speculation. “This match (against Nigeria) is really an expression of solidarity and friendship… This is the mandate of the two associations and it is of course different for the technical team in terms of what happens in the field,” Jordaan said. Meanwhile, South Africa’s U-17 national team Amajimbos will be looking for revenge when they clash against Mali in an earlier kick-off on the same day at the same stadium. Mali beat Amajimbos 2-0 in the Final of the African Youth Championship recently. Kick-off for the match between the junior national teams will be 13h00 and the match serves as preparation for the U-17 World Cup in Chile later this year with both countries having qualified. The national U-23 side have also been invited to play Palestine in Hebron in what will be Owen da Gama's first assignment as team coach.

Kaizer Chiefs have confirmed that their CAF Champions League match against Raja Casablanca will take place at Moses Mabhida Stadium. Amakhosi meet the Moroccans in the first round after overcoming Botswana's Township Rollers in the preliminary round. Chiefs' match against Raja will be played on March 14 and kick off has been set for 19h00.

Jordaan has revealed that Thulani Serero, May Mahlangu, Kamohelo Mokotjo and Ayanda Patosi will be considered for selection for future Bafana Bafana matches. Bafana will play Nigeria on March 29 at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, and Jordaan has extended an olive branch to the players who have been snubbed by Shakes Mashaba in the past games. Mahlangu, for example, was banned after allegedly informing Safa that he was “fatigued” and therefore unavailable for Bafana. Jordaan, though, has revealed that the association will ensure that all the players are available for selection. However, he added that the head coach will have the final say. “We are going to engage players like Serero, Patosi, Mahlangu because they are South Africans… Our view is that they are South Africans. “These players will be available for selection, but it will be up to the coach whether to select them,” Jordaan

Chippa United coach Ernst Middendorp says it will still be some time before Edward Manqele is fit enough to last 90 minutes for the Chilli Boys. Manqele has only played 27 League minutes for Chippa since joining the team from Mamelodi Sundowns in January. The striker has made one start this year, in United's defeat to minnows Natal FC in the Nedbank Cup. "It's going to take a bit of time. He could've been in a better situation in terms of taking the right decision in keeping in shape in November and December but it didn't happen," Middendorp said. "We are working with him and he's getting better in term of his physical side which is the only part that's been successful. In the next step you need to push yourself more but it would be difficult to get him ready for a full ninety. "If you haven't played in months it would be difficult to get into shape."

Bidvest Wits and University of Pretoria will kick off the last 16 stage of the 2015 Nedbank Cup on Tuesday 17 March. This was confirmed by the Premier Soccer League today following a meeting of the Organising Committee. The opening fixture of the last 16 will kick off at 19h30 at Bidvest Stadium in Johannesburg.  This will be followed by a match between Ajax Cape Town and Bloemfontein Celtic at Athlone Stadium on Friday, 20 March. Kick-off is at 20h00. On Humans Rights Day, Saturday 21 March, there will be four fixtures. At 15h00, Black Aces will host Jomo Cosmos at Mbombela Stadium and Maluti FET College will travel to Cape Town to face fellow NFD side Vasco da Gama at Philippi Stadium.  At 17h30, Kaizer Chiefs will host Black Leopards at FNB Stadium while SuperSport United will play Orlando Pirates at Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane at 20h15. On Sunday 22 March, Golden Arrows will be at home against Natal United while Platinum Stars will play Mamelodi Sundowns at Royal Bafokeng Stadium. Both fixtures will kick off at 15h00.

Bidvest Wits CEO Jose Ferreira has clarified the club's captaincy policy this season. Sibusiso Vilakazi led Wits last term, but has since had to share the responsibility with Moeneeb Josephs and Thulani Hlatshwayo, who skippered Wits in the 1-0 defeat of Mamelodi Sundowns on Tuesday. "We have three captains, Thulani, Moeneeb and Sibusiso Vilakazi," Ferreira said. "It's up to the coach [Gavin Hunt] to decide which one of them to use for that particular game."

Former Orlando Pirates midfielder Mark Mayambela has revealed why he surprisingly left Swedish topflight side Djurgardens IF for National First Division outfit Royal Eagles. Mayambela switched alliances last month after being impressed with the vision of Eagles chairman Sbu Mpisane. "He [Mpisane] told me his ambition and the vision that he has for the team," Mayambela said. "So with what he told me it drew a lot of interest in me. And the team, the way they handled things and they way they treat players... a lot of PSL teams can learn from Royal Eagles and that I can assure you. I can tell you now Royal Eagles compete with some of the big teams in terms of how they treat players and in terms of administration. Even the technical team: we have Mr [Khabo] Zondo who has coached teams like Celtic, Bay United and Golden Arrows. We also have Thami Ngubani who is a very experienced coach. So as much as you can say it's an NFD team, if you were in my position that I'm in now, you wouldn't say this is a NFD team," concluded the lanky Khayelitsha-born playmaker.

Free State Stars defender Daniel Cardoso says he is fully committed to the club but admits a return to Johannesburg holds appeal. Cardoso's future was the subject of speculation in the January transfer window, with the 26-year-old's contract set to expire at the end of the season. "I'm not disturbed and I'm fully committed to Free State Stars and I want to do the best I can," he said. "Last year we battled a bit in the relegation zone and I don't want go back there so I'm pushing myself to get out of that position... otherwise we gonna go back and suffer and we don't want that once again this season. But regarding my contract, we will see what happens because I have a one-year option to renew." When pressed on whether he wants to stay with Stars, he replied: "It depends now. But I would like to move back home to Joburg where my heart lies. I have been in the Free State for three years, so I need a new challenge and we will see what happens."

Sammy Troughton insists he remains a joint-head coach of University of Pretoria along with Selaotse ‘Sly’ Mosala despite appearing to take the lead since their appointment in November. Troughton has enjoyed a greater profile on match day, and has also supervised the first team without Mosala, who was in charge of the club’s successful Multichoice Diski Challenge campaign which ended with them as champions. “Though one man must go up and face the cameras after games it is still a team effort for us. I am not doing it all by myself,” Troughton said. The Northern Ireland-born coach was previously the head coach at Tuks between 2004-08, and is the more experienced of the two. “Sly does as much as me even though he has been busy with the MDC team of late where he has excelled and gained some credit in showcasing what he is capable of doing. We have always been sharing our responsibilities here in the first team and we are still sharing them up to now so nothing has changed. He does as much as me according to how we plan out to work and even though it appears that I am in the limelight we are still in agreement with the share of our workload. We have a great technical team here at the club with me and Sly as the joint coaches helped by our goalkeeper trainer Tendai [Tanyanyiwa] along with Paul [Matthews] and the rest of the technical team,” explained Troughton. Tuks have been enjoying an encouraging run of form this year with three wins and a draw and have actually lost just once since both Troughton and Mosala were appointed co-coaches. That single defeat was ironically against their former boss Steve Barker’s AmaZulu.

SA players abroad round-up:
Jali played the full match for KV Oostende as they beat Waasland-Beveren 4-3. Former Kiazer Chiefs player Knowledge Musona scored a brace for Oostende.
Mahlangu came off late for Turkish side Konyaspor as they sealed a 0-0 away draw at Büyüksehir in the Turkish League.
Serero was withdrawn 15 minutes into the second half of Sunday’s 1-0 home win over Excelsior Rotterdam.
Rantie came off the bench for the final 13 minutes as his English Championship side Bournemouth moved back to the top of their division with a 5-1 hammering of Fulham.
Furman played for Doncaster Rovers as they drew 1-1 at Gillingham to remain in the League One promotion play-off places on goal-difference.
Patosi’s Lokeren have missed out on the top six after they lost 2-1 at home to Anderlecht.
Keet was again on the bench for Kortrijk as they won 1-0 at home to Cercle Brugge to secure a top-six place in Belgium.
Mokotjo played 77 minutes for FC Twente on Friday night as they came from two goals down to seal a 2-2 draw at Willem II.
Ngcongca helped Genk take a massive step towards the championship play-offs in Belgium as they defeated Zulte-Waregem 3-1.
Claasen made a just a second appearance of 2015 for German Bundesliga II side 1860 Munich as he came off the bench for the last 30 minutes in their 3-2 loss to Sandhausen.
Fowler made his ‘second debut’ for Finnish side FC Haka after returning to the club where it all began for him in Europe as they won 5-2 at P-Iirot in the Finnish Cup.
Ntlhe started for Peterborough United as they won 1-0 at home to Leyton Orient to keep their promotion hopes alive in League One.
Phiri’s tough time in Denmark continues as he played for Brondby in their 3-1 loss to FC Copenhagen. Phiri has yet to taste victory in 2015, with his side also knocked out of the Danish Cup last week.

It was same old story for Siyanda Xulu as the restart of the Russian season saw him not used in the 1-0 home loss for bottom side FC Rostov against Lokomotiv Moscow.