Has Bafana Bafana found its golden generation?

Njabulo Blom

Bafana Bafana has been struggling for years to replicate the golden generation of the past, and has struggled to maintain the status that was left by the 1996 and 2002 generations that won the African Cup of Nations and qualified for the FIFA World Cup.  

However, a new crop of players has emerged and could lead to a new possible era for the national team on the global stage. Coach Hugo Broos announced his squad, and a vast majority of young players have filled the 35-man squad with the balance taken up by experienced players.  

These young players could be the answer to every South African prayer, and if integrated well into the national setup, we could see a very dominant and competitive Bafana Bafana squad. 

The average age of the young players that coach Broos has selected is 25, and that’s the perfect age to have in the national team. Coach Broos will need to find a way to guide these youngsters in his system, as well as the national teams’ system.  

Monnapule Saleng is arguably the most exciting player among this young group. The 24-year-old has a lot to offer, with his speed, control of the ball and eye for goal, he will be valuable for coach Broos. Saleng brings goals for coach Broos, something that the national team has been sorely lacking. The Orlando Pirates attacker enters the national team having scored eight goals in the league, and hopefully carries his brilliant form over to the national team. 

Monnapule Saleng of Orlando Pirates
Monnapule Saleng of Orlando Pirates during DStv Premiership 2022/23 match between Orlando Pirates and AmaZulu FC at Orlando Stadium on the 14 October 2022 © Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

The goals will not only be supplied by Saleng, because another prospect has been selected to boost the national team. Mamelodi Sundowns playmaker and goal scorer, Cassius Mailula is a player that will offer variety to the national team, with his swagger on the ball, ability to find spaces in-between defenders, and goal-scoring ability, will be an asset for coach Broos’s team.  

The Mamelodi Sundowns attacker has eight goals in the league and 11 in all competitions. Not only has he been a threat in the league, but he has caused havoc in the champions league. The 21-year-old’s experience will come in handy for the national team.

Also Read: Is Hugo Broos talent blind, or do Kaizer Chiefs just not have enough quality?

Coach Broos has selected his youngsters in various positions, giving depth to the squad. Arguably a well-selected team of youngsters, with Khanyiso Mayo making the team as well. The 24-year-old Cape Town City forward has 19 appearances, found the net five times and has two assists. Mayo’s presence gives coach Broos a wide variety of options to either field him on the left or right.  

Besides Saleng, Mailula and Mayo, the nation will have the opportunity to see the likes of Lyle Foster play. The former Orlando Pirates player currently plies his trade in Europe with Burnley FC. The 22-year-old brings in the European element and experience to the national team, which is of critical importance.

Former Chiefs player, Sergio Dos Santos feels that this might be the best squad coach Broos could have, because there are several youngsters who can bring stability to the national team.  

“When I look at the squad Hugo Broos has selected, from the goalkeepers right up to the striking department, I see some very exciting talents. I mean you’ve got Monnapule Saleng who right now is one of the most exciting players, I mentioned this some time ago. He’s an exciting player with immense talent and it will be exciting to see how he develops.  

“Bringing him into the squad is fantastic. Cassius Mailula from Sundowns is probably one of the most exciting young talents that have come out of Africa probably in the last 10 years based on what we have seen so far. He’s a very exciting player, has lovely skills, high speed, competitive, his movements are good, a workaholic and he has an appetite. 

Cassius Mailula, Bafana Bafana
Cassius Mailula

“Lyle Foster is another one, he showed very good potential when he was selected for the first time and at that stage, quite a few supporters lifted up their eyelids thinking about who Lyle Foster is, and I remember stating that this boy has great potential and if he looks after himself and liaises accordingly, he will become a big player, well he is at Burley.

“Kobamelo Kodisang, 23, who is at Moreirense in Portugal, another player with great potential, he is playing first division in Portugal, and you don’t play first division in Portugal unless you got talent and then ahead of that, you’ve got Grant Margeman, 24, who used to be with Ajax. I know him very well when I was the head of scout at Ajax, he’s an exciting little player. 

“Njabulo Blom, 23, is someone who, when he was playing for Chiefs, a lot of people doubted his ability and he has now proven that maybe he is good enough, and you’ve also got Sphephelo Sithole,24, who also plays in Portugal. So, you’ve got an exciting number of young players at a good age that can come in and challenge. I feel this is the time to explore and build a solid national team,” Dos Santos told ThisIsFootball.Africa.