The arduous search for a suitable coach to lead Bafana Bafana in their quest for qualification to the 2018 FIFA World Cup and 2019 African Cup of Nations seems to finally be over.
After months of speculation and the who’s who of coaching candidates bandied about, The Mail & Guardian can safely reveal that the South African Football Association (Safa) has settled for a man with extensive knowledge of the African game, both at club and national level.
The hottest seat in SA football became vacant when Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba was sacked for gross misconduct following his petulant rant at his employers at the end of a brilliant 2-1 victory over Senegal in a 2018 World Cup qualifier in Polokwane.
Now, former Dutch captain Ruud Krol has agreed terms and conditions with Safa to take charge of Bafana after the organisation had initially flirted with Iran-locked Carlos Queiroz, then the primadonna demands of Morocco gaffer Herve Renard and ran the gauntlet of greedy agents with Cameroon coach Hugo Broos.
But, after failing to secure their preferred candidate and with Bafana due to line-up against Guinea Bissau and Angola in friendly matches in the next seven days, Safa took the plunge to acquire the former Orlando Pirates gaffer.
“Safa stated openly when they advertised the post that the criteria required for a successful Bafana Bafana coach would be an intimate and extensive knowledge of the African game,” said our source within the organisation.
“The criteria as elucidated by Safa goes on to point out that the successful candidate must have an excellent understanding of the South African playing philosophy, or playing style, as some people like to describe our approach to the game.
“In fact, it goes on to explain that he must have international coaching experience with a good track record allied to a vision and passion for football development and good player management to complete Safa’s Vision 2022,” explained our source.
While SuperSport United’s Stuart Baxter has also been mentioned as a dark horse for the post, their chairperson Khulu Sibiya and chief executive Stanley Matthews have both stated unequivocally that they harbored ambitions to win the Premiership and had no intentions of releasing the Scot.
A hard and uncompromising defender during his playing days at Ajax Amsterdam and for the Dutch national team during the establishment of the “total football” philosophy espoused by Johan Cruyff, Krol captained his country at the 1978 World Cup.
“He has coached in his native Holland,” said our source. “But he has also worked mainly in Africa since 1994 when he took charge of the Egyptian U-23’s and later the senior team and what appears to have given him an added advantage is that he is available to start working without delay.”
Krol has also coached some of Africa’s top sides like CS Sfaxien (Tunisia), Zamalek (Egypt), Esperance (Tunisia), Club Africain (Tunisia), Raja Casablanca (Morocco) and locally Soweto’s Pirates.
He has also managed the senior national teams of Egypt and Tunisia, on both occasions for very short spells.
Previously he’s also been an assistant coach for the Netherlands, where he served his apprenticeship under Louis Van Gaal and Frank Rijkaard.
“South Africa’s next official matches are the back-to-back 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Cape Verde during August and September,” reveals our source.
“So the Guinea-Bissau and Angola matches have been arranged entirely because the two teams play similar to their Portuguese-speaking ‘Blue Sharks’ of Cape Verde.
“The thinking behind arranging the two teams is to allow Bafana Bafana to get a sense of what to expect from Cape Verde, but also to give the new coach an opportunity to see the kind of personnel he would be working with.”
The selection of Kamohelo Mokotjo to that team now seems like a case of bolting the stable door after the horse has bolted. This week it was revealed that, unbeknown to most, the player had taken up Dutch citizenship, which renders him ineligible to feature for his native country.
However, Portugal-based former Mamelodi Sundowns holding midfielder Bongani Zungu has been a regular feature for Vitoria Guimares and could be called up in the 25-man squad after been initially left out.
Mokotjo is said to have renounced his South African citizenship following irreconcilable differences with the sacked Mashaba. It seems unlikely he will wear a gold and green jersey again, with his switch to the Dutch understood to make signing for any European team easier.
The selected players include another player exiled by Mashaba – Kermit Erasmus, who will join his compatriots in Johannesburg on Sunday and head for Durban on Monday where they will prepare for the clash against Guinea Bissau. The match is scheduled for next Saturday under the guidance of Bafana assistant coach Owen da Gama.