local soccer 11.6.2015 11:10 am

Shakes spoilt for choice

TOUGH CHOICE. Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba will have to choose between Marc van Heerden (left) and Thabo Matlaba to face Gambia in a Afcon 2017 qualifier at left-back in Durban on Saturday. Pictures: Gallo Images, Backpagepix

TOUGH CHOICE. Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba will have to choose between Marc van Heerden (left) and Thabo Matlaba to face Gambia in a Afcon 2017 qualifier at left-back in Durban on Saturday. Pictures: Gallo Images, Backpagepix

Two of the options Shakes Mashaba has to start at left-back for Bafana Bafana against the Gambia in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier on Saturday are as different as day and night.

Thabo Matlaba is a bundle of energy and always buzzing, while Marc van Heerden is reserved, but calculating. Even the way their seasons ended was very different.

Matlaba and his Orlando Pirates ended their campaign on a high, smashing Guinea’s AS Kaloum 6-1 over two legs to become the third South African team to reach the Caf Confederation Cup group stage. Van Heerden and his AmaZulu side on the other hand suffered the disappointment of relegation.

Van Heerden hopes to play at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, but knows he might be on the bench.

“We have Thabo and Patrick Phungwayo here, both quality fullbacks, but if I get my chance I will take it,” Van Heerden said. “We’re all good left-backs and are in the team for a reason. Coming back to my home ground is very special, especially playing for the national team.”

Matlaba was involved in one of the most exciting matches by a South African side in continental football when the Buccaneers tormented Kaloum to win 4-1 at Bidvest Stadium last weekend.

While most of his club team-mates are taking it easy before the start of the group stage later this month, Matlaba, Ntsikelelo Nyauza and Oupa Manyisa boarded a plane to Durban on Monday. The ultimate goal is to board a plane to Gabon in 2017 and play in his second successive Afcon.

“We are fit,” Matlaba said. “We are not worried about the fact that we won’t get a break. As you know, me and Oupa are always playing. Coming to Bafana Bafana is a proud moment, which is why we always give it our all no matter what.”

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