With Bantu less than two weeks away from their maiden appearance in the African Champions League tournament, coach Motlatsi Shale, remains unfazed despite the magnitude of the task at hand.
The Mafeteng outfit face Association Sportive Mangasport of Gabon in the preliminary round of Africa’s most prestigious club competition, with the first leg scheduled for 15 February in Libreville and the reverse at Setsoto Stadium on 1 March.
However, Shale says Bantu are ready for the big stage and had made significant strides following successive losses against South Africa’s Bloemfontein Celtic and Free State Stars last month. Against Celtic, Bantu were hammered 3-0, while narrowly losing 1-0 to Free State Stars in friendly matches Shale had hoped would give his charges the much-needed international exposure .
“I think there has been a lot of improvement since those defeats because we have been hard at work trying to improve our weaknesses,” Shale said.
“Those friendly matches against Celtic and Free State Stars were not about results, but testing the team so that we can work on our weak points.
“We have been pushing hard to make sure we are ready in all departments of our game, and I believe we have managed to rectify many of the mistakes that led to those defeats, and are prepared for Mangasport.”
Striker Litšepe Marabe has been enjoying fine form and leads the scoring charts with 13 goals, which Shale says puts Bantu in a good position to blast their way past Mangasport .
“It is good he has been scoring goals and also that this is happening at the right time because we will need him to continue with this form in the continental competition,” said Shale.
“But all in all, I think the whole team has been doing well; Marabe has been hogging the limelight because he is scoring goals, but his teammates have been providing the assists, which he has been putting away. However, I’m very happy that his finishing has improved, and this gives us a chance going into a tough competition such as the Champions League.”
Shale also believes the experience of players such as inspirational captain Tlali Maile, Thabo Masualle, and Thapelo Mokhehle, would be very crucial in the continental challenge.
“Experience will be very key in this competition and luckily, we have a number of players who have been playing for the national team, Likuena, for years,” he said.
Bantu are sweating over the fitness of first-choice goalkeeper Liteboho Mokhesi, who has hardly played in the New Year, but Shale believes the team has enough cover in Kholuoe Phasumane. Both keepers were part of Likuena in the later stage of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
“I would have loved to have the two goalkeepers available, and hopefully, Mokhesi is going to recover soon.”