Shakes Mashaba said lack of goals from the national team is not a problem at national level, but at domestic level. However, if the players banging in the goals domestically aren’t included in the squad, surely the problem isn’t exclusively down to ‘development’? By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

Bafana Bafana can thank their lucky stars that they managed to beat Angola in a meaningless friendly on Tuesday. South Africa came from a goal behind to clinch victory at the Cape Town Stadium, but the blueprint remained the same: attack, miss chances, repeat. Luckily, South Africa managed to convert some of those chances this time around, but it won’t erase the memory of goalless draw in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Gambia last week.

For Shakes Mashaba, the honeymoon seems to be over. South Africa started off on a flyer under the new coach when he was appointed last year, sailing through Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers and playing some pretty football in the process. At the tournament proper earlier this year, Bafana were often in control of matches, scoring first, but then losing the plot.

Lack of goals, despite clear-cut chances, remains one of the biggest problems for South Africa. Following South Africa’s draw against Gambia, Mashaba was quick to say the issue needs to be addressed at domestic level.

“We always try and address problems at the wrong level… the national team level,” said Mashaba, according to PSL’s official website.

We’ve developed habits here now, good, bad, ugly, straight and we can’t change them at this level. Never. You can’t. They have to grow up with it.

“We need to get high skilled and qualified manpower to work at the grass root level. And those people must be well-looked after because it’s not an easy thing.

“There are 16 teams in the PSL. We got 16 coaches plus their co-workers. All of them, they talk about scoring goals, the problem. And where do we get those players that are playing in the national team? From the very same clubs. Now we expect when the national team gets together for four days, and it’s not even four days, how do you solve the problem of scoring goals? We bring players in, we guide them and that is all. We’re not making players here.”

But the problem isn’t actually as bad as Mashaba might believe. Last season, there were 555 goals scored in the Premier Soccer League (PSL), with an average of 2.31 goals per game. This season’s English Premier League produced an average of 2.57 goals per game. If the EPL is the so-called “best league in the world” then South Africa aren’t too far off on being par for the course in terms of producing goals.

Shakes’ argument might have held some water a few seasons ago. In the 2013-14 season, the PSL produced an average of 2.21 goals per game and in 2012-13, there was just 1.1 goal per game. So there has been a steady improvement in the draught and many of those players who have progressed from the dire 2012-13 season have also progressed to the national team.

The problem, then doesn’t seem to be development as it is rather the graduation from “development” to national level. Sure, these players do not play together as a group very often and it does take time to find chemistry and telepathy, as South Africa showed in a much-improved performance against Angola. But if they cannot dismantle Gambia, one of the weakest teams on the continent, how are they going to get past the other teams in their group?

During for a period from September 2011 to September 2013, Gambia failed to win a single game, losing nine out of their 12 fixtures. With players like Thulani Serero and May Mahlangu returning to the team and bolstering the midfield, it was the lack of top-quality strikers that really got Bafana in their Afcon qualifier.

There was no Tokelo Rantie (if he can be called top quality), no Kermit Erasmus and no Lehlohonolo Majoro. Erasmus managed double goal-scoring figures in last season’s PSL as did Moeketsi Sekola, Puleng Tlolane and Lerato Lamola, the only four South Africans to achieve this feat in the league. But if the players who are scoring goals aren’t even in the squad, then perhaps the problem lies not so much with development, but with the ones identifying the developed talent.

What also of Bernard Parker, who scored eight goals in eight games when Gordon Igesund was still in charge? He is still only 29 and his experience is something South Africa could really do with while Mashaba eases in the youngsters.

South Africa’s next Afcon qualifying assignment will only come in September where they will play Mauritania. With the 2015-16 Premier League season still likely to be in its infancy then, and players having had a long recess, Mashaba has plenty to ponder when it comes to squad selection. Luckily, he has all the time in the world. DM

Photo: South Africa’s coach Shakes Mashaba reacts during their Group C soccer match against Algeria at the 2015 African Cup of Nations in Mongomo January 19, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings


Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Daily Maverick Elections Toolbox

Feeling powerless in politics?

Equip yourself with the tools you need for an informed decision this election. Get the Elections Toolbox with shareable party manifesto guide.