Sun Oct 22 17:31:55 SAST 2017

Defence splitters, Bhele, 'Killer' tasked with Ethiopian onslaught

2012-06-04 10:40:04.0 | MARC STRYDOM |

SIYABONGA Nomvethe and Katlego Mphela will spearhead the goal-shy national team's effort to breach Ethiopia's defence in today's World Cup qualifier in Rustenburg.

TRUSTED HUNTER: Siyabonga Nomvethe.
WALL: Itumeleng Khune

 They're very stubborn so the first goal is crucial for us, and it would be nice if it was early 

The two strikers, recalled veteran Nomvethe and Bafana's current top scorer, Mphela, will play the key role as South Africa open their Group A campaign at Royal Bafokeng Stadium.

Group winners progress to a final, home and away knockout round to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

The catastrophic misunderstanding of Rule 14.1 in their final Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier against Sierra Leone last year cost Bafana qualification for a second Afcon finals in succession.

The Nelspruit debacle was a blow to a growing confidence under coach Pitso Mosimane, who had also sported a spring in his step as South Africa led their group following a win against Egypt at home and draw in Cairo.

This afternoon marks a fresh start for Mosimane in his almost two-year tenure.

South Africa need a win against 138th-ranked Ethiopia to go into their next qualifier, against Botswana in Gaberone on Saturday, with the chance of seizing a six-point lead of the group.

But they will need to reverse an eight-match winless streak in which they have scored four goals.

It's an intriguing partnership between Nomvethe (34), who has amassed 79 caps and 16 goals in a 14-year international career, and the enigmatic Mphela that will be crucial to unlocking the Ethiopian defence.

Nomvethe scored seven goals in his last four games as Moroka Swallows pushed Orlando Pirates close in the Absa Premiership title race. Mphela netted just one goal in a torrid second half of the season for Mamelodi Sundowns, but has been known to produce the goods for Bafana regardless of club form.

The pair last started a match together at the Afcon in Egypt in 2006, in a 1-0 defeat to Zambia.

Mosimane said, with the back-up of Pirates' Tokelo Rantie and Santos striker Eleazar Rodgers, he has one of his best attacks he's had available.

Mosimane identified 21-year-old striker Oumed Okri, who has scored nine goals in 19 games for Ethiopia, as potentially dangerous on the counter-attack.

"And you know people from Ethiopia when it comes to endurance and running. They're very stubborn so the first goal is crucial for us, and it would be nice if it was early."

Bafana are minus a few key players. Siyabonga Sangweni was injured in training this week and will be replaced by Bongani Khumalo.

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