Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Time for Rowe to engage higher gears

Old horses once again exposed in a 2-1 loss to South Africa.

Despite recent calls from the soccer fraternity for Zebras coach, Colwn Rowe, to renovate the national team, he looks unfazed. The same players the coach is overprotecting were, once again, exposed and were to blame when the national team lost to South Africa in an international friendly on Wednesday in Durban. Sunday Standard sports journalist, Tshepho Bogosing watched the game.

Botswana’s national team, the Zebras, might have lost a friendly game against South Africa on Wednesday in Durban but the game should have given the national team coach, Colwyn Rowe, a broader picture of the team for the future. As usual, Rowe relied on his old guard that generally disappointed in the 2-1 loss to South Africa. The Zebras managed to absorb the torrential attacks from the Africa Cup of Nations bound team that, at some stages, looked frustrated because they did not easily break the Zebras defence.

However, the major concern is the concentration lapse and the ineffective left back and winger. The Zebras conceded the first goal just three minutes before the end of the first half and the second one nine minutes from full time. It can be borne in mind that the Zebras also lost their last and all important game for the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations against Egypt just eleven minutes from full time. This is one thing coach Rowe should seriously take into consideration.

Rowe and some members of the technical staff might be defensive of left winger Nelson ‘Viola’ Gabolwelwe, but the South African game once again put him under the spotlight together with Ernest, Amos who was playing behind him. The scrappy display of Botswana’s left side resulted in both South African goals and, if remedial measures cannot be put in place as a mater of urgency, trouble is looming.

Gabolwelwe failed to penetrate the South African defence when on attack and easily lost possession. Amos, on the other hand, battled with the pace of speedy South African strikers who gave him a torrid time.

The first South African goal was scored by their right back, Bryce Moon, who easily cut through Gabolwelwe before unleashing a powerful shot that sailed into the net after a deflection from Ndiapo Letsholathebe. After the first goal, one would have thought a lesson or two had been learnt by Botswana.

Although Township Rollers striker, Moemedi ‘Jomo’ Moatlhaping, managed to level matters midway into the second half, the South Africans were not deterred and nine minutes before the Namibian referee blew the final whistle, German-based Sibusiso Zuma scored the second and winning goal. The goal was a resultant of the spade work from South Africa’s right position which Amos and company failed to thwart.

It is about time Rowe called naturally left-footed players like, Mosimanegape Ramohibidu, and even upcoming young enterprising sensation from Extension Gunners, Kgololo Leteane. Ramohibidu has already proven himself at the national Under 23s and does not need introduction. He has speed and can play both as a winger and defender. What puts Ramohibidu ahead of others is his ability to lay defence splitting passes, something that most local players lack.
Leteane, on the other hand, might be waiting to turn 19 but he is another excellent player if given a chance. He can operate on the left.

Most countries give young players a chance at senior team level and why this is not done in Botswana is a mystery. Leteane has good height and, just like Ramohibidu, he can play on the wing and in defence. In addition, he has good serves.

Rowe should also have given a handful of youngsters he took with the team to South Africa a chance. It was only Dirang Moloi who played the whole game. Jerome Ramatlhakwane came on in the second half and made his presence left as he gave the South African defence a torrid time with his sparkling runs. Other youngsters, like Gobonyeone ‘Shoes’ Selefa, Moreetsi Mosimanyana, Boitumelo Modisaotsile and Noah Maposa, just watched the whole game from the bench.

It was for the second time that Botswana faced a full-strength South Africa since 1993, but Coach Rowe should have used it as a platform to build a stronger team for the future by fielding youngsters. Established players like Modiri Marumo, Mompati Thuma and Diphetogo Selolwane deserved to rest so that Rowe could widen his selection net.


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