When appointed at the end of July 2014, Shakes Mashaba entered his fourth stint as the head coach of the South African senior men’s national football team. The appointment of Mashaba was somewhat surprising as many international coaches were linked to the job, including 2013 African Cup of Nations winning coach Stephen Keshi, who was recently fired from his position as head coach of Nigeria.
The former u/20 men’s football coach has already stamped his authority on the national team by attempting to rebuild the squad with a mixture of experienced players and youngsters. In his first two matches as Bafana coach, Mashaba included inexperienced Nhlakanipho Ntuli, Dumisani Msibi, Ayabulela Magqwaka and Rivaldo Coetzee in his squad, also handing Coetzee his debut at the tender age of 17, making him the youngest player to ever represent the national side.
The likes of Dean Furman, Thabo Matlaba and Anele Ngcongca regained their position in the team after the Gordon Igesund era. Even though the emphasis in selection has been placed on youth, Mashaba proved that he will still pick ageing players who are in form at club level when he called up Reneilwe Letsholonyane, who is currently the top goal scorer in the Absa Premiership.
In the first four matches of his tenure, Mashaba remains unbeaten. It seems Bafana is also adapting well to his football philosophy. He wants the players to form a unit both on and off the field. Shakes Mashaba has enforced many changes after Gordon Igesund’s departure, the most notable being that he has said he is going to rotate who wears the captains’ arm band. Other than that, Bafana have now adopted the conventional 4-4-2 formation, moving away from the lone striker style of play Igesund preferred.
It is already easy to see that Mashaba will always play his strongest eleven, even if it means that extensive changes need to be made every time the squad is selected. One can also see that he applies no-nonsense defensive tactics and demands plenty of goals from his strikers.
The start of his newest spell as head coach of the national side has been flawless. He has led Bafana to the top of their qualifying group for Afcon 2015 with the team yet to concede a goal in almost 360 minutes of football.
Shakes Mashaba is a charismatic coach who wears his heart on his sleeve and always has time for his players and fans.
Bafana Bafana. Image: BuzzSouthAfrica.co.za