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Bafana's lack of international experience a concern for coach Baxter

Stuart Baxter will be under pressure to return Bafana Bafana to winning ways when his side host Libya in their African Nations Cup qualifier in Durban on Saturday, but will not be able to rely on much international experience on the pitch.

It is a startling fact that only four of the squad have played 14 times or more for the national team, with midfielder Hlompho Kekana (25 caps) the latest withdrawal.

Just how much that experience, or lack thereof, will count at the weekend remains to be seen, but it also speaks of the nature of this team -- one that is newly knitted together and lacking in seasoned combinations.

The 22 players in the squad have 317 caps between them at an average of just 14 per player, with 14 of them, more than half the squad, still in single figures.

KweséESPN looks at the squad and their experience ahead of the crucial clash for Bafana.

VINCENT PULE
Age: 26
Position: Midfielder
Caps/goals: 0/0

The Orlando Pirates left-winger has started in good form this season, though he has missed a number of chances as the side has struggled. Is newly-arrived at his club from Bidvest Wits, where he was largely a second-choice for coach Gavin Hunt.

MXOLISI MACUPHU
Age: 29
Position: Striker
Caps/goals: 0/0

Macuphu is a late replacement for Lebo Mothiba, after the latter withdrew from the squad through injury. The 29-year-old has impressed as a striker (rather than his usual attacking midfield position) for Wits so far this season after arriving from Chippa United after spending most of his career in the National First Division.

INNOCENT MAELA
Age: 26
Position: Left-back
Caps/goals: 2/0

Hard-running left-back who likes to get forward and is very much in the 'wing-back' mould. Has played every minute for Orlando Pirates this season and shown some good form. His first cap was against Tanzania in the COSAFA Cup in 2017 and his second against Zambia in March this year.

TEBOHO MOKOENA


Age:
21
Position: Central midfielder
Caps/goals: 2/0

A good box-to-box style midfielder who has shown plenty of promise for SuperSport United and won the second of his two caps in the victory over Zambia in March. Has an eye for goal and could be a good option off the bench.

MOTJEKA MADISHA
Age: 23
Position: Centre-back
Caps/goals: 4/1

A classy centre-back whose caps have all come this year, three in the COSAFA Cup competition in June. He looks as though he could well be a long-term solution for Mamelodi Sundowns as well as the national side in that position.

SIPHESIHLE NDLOVU
Age:
21
Position: Central midfielder
Caps/goals: 5/0

One of the rising stars of local football, he was imperious in the 2017/18 campaign, which led to comparisons with N'Golo Kante at Chelsea. But he has started the new season in less impressive form for Maritzburg United, not least because of red card against Kaizer Chiefs. All his caps have come this year.

RONWEN WILLIAMS
Age:
26
Position: Goalkeeper
Caps/goals: 5/0

Williams has long been a star performer at club level with SuperSport United, but been largely been poor in a national team jersey, showing a lack of command of his area and too many nerves. Has conceded 10 times in his five caps, though to be fair five of those were against a strong Brazil side on debut.

TIYANI MABUNDA
Age:
30
Position: Defensive midfielder
Caps/goals: 6/0

Hard-working midfielder who was a late addition to the squad after the injury to his Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder partner and captain, Hlompho Kekana. It would be a surprise if he starts, but is a very capable performer.

SIYANDA XULU
Age:
26
Position: Centre-back
Caps/goals: 7/1

A player who has seen a resurgence in his career in the last 12 months at Maritzburg United after seemingly facing the abyss following two seasons of not playing at Kaizer Chiefs. He made his national team debut in 2012 but was perhaps scarred by the 5-0 loss to Brazil in 2014 and it would be more than four years before he returned to the team.

BRADLEY GROBLER


Age:
30
Position: Striker
Caps/goals: 8/2

The SuperSport United man is probably the form South African striker in the PSL, Grobler has worked extensively with Bafana coach Stuart Baxter before and is arguably the best finisher in the domestic game. Not all that mobile, he relies on being in the right place at the right time.

S'FISO HLANTI
Age: 28
Position: Left-back
Caps/goals: 8/0

The likely starter in the left-back position on Saturday, he has been a steady performer for Wits with robust defence and good delivery from wide areas. He does enjoy getting forward.

DARREN KEET
Age: 29
Position: Goalkeeper
Caps/goals: 8/0

The Wits keeper probably would have played more national team games were it not for the presence of Itumeleng Khune. He is a steady performer, though he has had some soft moments in a national team jersey.

AUBREY MODIBA
Age:
23
Position: Attacking midfielder / left-back
Caps/goals: 8/2

A versatile player who was also not in the original squad named, but came in as a replacement for Themba Zwane on the left-hand side. Was a stand-out performer at the COSAFA Cup in June and is another Baxter knows well from his time as SuperSport United coach.

BUHLE MKHWANAZI
Age:
28
Position: Centre-back
Caps/goals: 9/0

A player who would surely have won more international caps were it not for injury, he has still been overlooked far too often, especially as he forms a solid partnership with Thulani Hlatshwayo at club level at Wits.

KAMOHELO MOKOTJO
Age: 27
Position: Defensive midfielder
Caps/goals: 11/0

Probably the player with the best technique of any in the national side, Mokotjo is an excellent footballer and much under-rated in his own country. It is a travesty that he only has 11 caps at the age of 27... but it's been to the benefit of his clubs overseas, the latest of which is Brentford in the English second tier.

RAMAHLWE MPHAHLELE
Age: 28
Position: Right-back
Caps/goals: 12/0

A player who much was expected of when he burst onto the scene as a teenager with Moroka Swallows in 2007, but it took him until two years ago to make his national team debut. Now at Kaizer Chiefs, 'Rama' is a solid and dependable option in the fullback position.

PERCY TAU
Age:
24
Position: Striker
Caps/goals: 12/5

A key figure for the national team with his ability to not only score goals but also conjure opportunities out of nothing. Bafana will likely rely heavily on him as an attacking threat and he has a decent early scoring ratio for the national side which helped catch the eye of Brighton & Hove Albion, who have loaned him to Belgian side Royale Union Saint-Gilloise.

KEAGAN DOLLY 
Age:
25
Position: Attacking midfielder
Caps/goals: 13/2

Versatile attacking midfielder who plays for Montpellier in France, though he has probably not got the amount of game-time he would have liked at the start of this campaign. Can score from range and is always busy on the pitch.

SIBUSISO VILAKAZI
Age:
30
Position: Attacking midfielder
Caps/goals: 30/5

A skilled technician on his day, you never really know which version of Vilakazi is going to pitch up. He also flits between playing as an attacking midfielder and a striker at Mamelodi Sundowns, which probably doesn't help his cause. Can be a match-winner for the side though.

THULANI HLATSHWAYO
Age: 28
Position: Centre-back
Caps/goals: 34/3

Hlatshwayo has worn the captain's armband of late and will likely again as he presents a powerful figure in the centre of defence. He rarely has a bad game and never looks flustered. Is also a weapon at set-pieces in the opposition box, as he proves often at Wits.

DEAN FURMAN
Age:
30
Position: Defensive midfield
Caps/goals: 46/3

A favourite of coach Stuart Baxter, Furman works tirelessly in the middle of the park and on his day is a fine passer of the ball. Is also a good leader on the pitch whether it's with the armband at SuperSport United or no longer in Bafana colours..

ITUMELENG KHUNE
Age: 31
Position: Goalkeeper
Caps/goals: 87/0

The stalwart goalkeeper has been the undisputed number one for his country for the past decade and with his excellent distribution is a key attacking weapon as well. The Kaizer Chiefs man is behind only Aaron Mokoena (107) and Siphiwe Tshabalala (89) on the all-time Bafana caps list.

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