17.03.2015 22:49 h

South Africa recall Europe-based 'rebels'

Europe-based South Africa 'rebel' midfielders Thulani Serero and May Mahlangu were recalled Tuesday for March friendlies against Swaziland and Nigeria.

Coach Ephraim 'Shakes' Mashaba ignored Serero from Dutch club Ajax and Mahlangu from Turkish outfit Konyaspor for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea.

Mahlangu infuriated the coach by rejecting a national squad call-up last year because he was "tired" and Serero refused to attend a pre-Cup of Nations training camp.

But when Bafana Bafana (The Boys) were eliminated after the first round at the African showpiece, some officials and sections of the public and media urged Mashaba to reconsider his stance.

Serero, the only South African to feature in the group stage of the Champions League this season, also fell out with previous coach Gordon Igesund, who accused him of feigning injury.

South Africa play Swaziland in Lobamba on March 25 and Nigeria in north-eastern city Nelspruit on March 29 in warm-up games ahead of a June start to the 2017 Cup of Nations qualifiers.

Mashaba also recalled long-time injury victim Itumeleng Khune, who joins fellow Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper Brilliant Khuzwayo in a 30-strong squad.

"My task is to build a new team that will bring results," said Mashaba.

"Some may say Swaziland are a weak team, but playing South Africa will bring out the best in them.

"Nigeria are tough and arrogant, and you cannot be arrogant unless you are confident.

"We have to compete, not just tactically, but mentally and physically.

"Nigeria are coming spitting fire because we denied them a chance to defend the Cup of Nations title this year."

Seven of the 2015 Cup of Nations squad have been left out, including Belgium-based goalkeeper Darren Keet.