South Africa coach Molefi Ntseki is gearing up for a “crucial” COSAFA Under-17 Championships in Mauritius from July 19-29, which serve as the qualifier from the region for the African Under-17 Championships in Tanzania next year.
The boss of Amajimbos, as the side is known, has led the team to second and fourth in Mauritius in the last two years, but this time is aiming for gold as he looks to steer the side to the continental finals and then return to the FIFA Under-17 World Cup having qualified in 2015.
“The COSAFA Under-17 Championships is crucial this year and the boys will know that every match they play will be very important,” Ntseki said. “We have to win to qualify for the African Under-17 Championships in Tanzania and that will add pressure for the team, which is something we will work on prior to the tournament.”
Ntseki will have his team in camp from July 3 and says there will be quite a bit of overlap from the squad that finished fourth last year.
“Probably around 70 percent of the boys that we took to the competition in 2017 will be there again this year. But we have been to every corner of South Africa looking to discover fresh talent and we have identified new players that will be coming in from across the country.”
With a short build-up to the finals, Ntseki says the work will be intensive.
“We have to work on the players as individuals and as a team. Remember, these players have also recently been writing mid-year exams, so they have not really been training as they would normally.
“So we need to work on the fitness aspect, but also do a lot of work tactically in a short space of time. You are talking about boys that are 16 years old or younger, so it maybe takes a little bit longer than you would normally expect.
“But a key aspect for us will be to prepare them mentally for the tournament because there will be pressure given that this is a continental qualifier as well. We need to take that into account and the impact of that pressure on them.
“Every game they play will be important if we are to achieve our goal, which is not just to win the COSAFA Under-17 Championships, but also to qualify for the continental finals.
“We will have to be ready for what is a very competitive competition with very good teams.”
South Africa have been drawn in Group B along with defending champions Zambia, Mozambique and Lesotho.
Only the top side in each group and the best runner-up from the three pools advance to the semifinals.