Defending champions South Africa will use the 2018 COSAFA Under-20 Championships as vital preparation for their continental champions in Niger next February, which they hope in turn will book them a ticket to the 2019 World Cup.
The COSAFA championships in this age-group offer all teams vital exposure at international level, but South Africa, who are the only team in the region to compete at the African Under-20 Championships in Niger, there is added importance.
Zambia will again host the COSAFA tournament in Kitwe from 30 November-13 December, where South Africa coach Thabo Senong will again be in charge of the side.
“There are two things that have to be achieved in this upcoming COSAFA tournament,” Senong said. “The first one is to make sure that we are well prepared for it so that we can get the best performance out of our players.
“The second one is to make sure that we give it our utmost best to try and defend our title. That will serve as a great morale boaster leading up next year’s Africa Under-20 Cup of Nations Niger edition.”
Amajita, as the side is known, will go into camp on November 20, with Senong and his technical team, which includes former Bafana Bafana winger Helman Mkhalele, having scouted players the length and breadth of the country.
South Africa defeated Lesotho 2-1 in last year’s final, which gave the side their sixth championship, drawing them level with Zimbabwe.
So far Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe and associate member Reunion have confirmed their participation, the first time the latter will take part in a COSAFA tournament.
The draw for the pool stages is scheduled to take place in Kitwe on 30 October.
Meanwhile, Senong also welcomed the decision of CAF to move the continental finals from March to February.
“Niger is extremely hot during the month of March. It was a good idea from the organisers to move it into to the month of February,” Senong said.
“The plan is to arrive there early so that our players can get enough time to adapt to the weather conditions there before the tournament starts. If we can manage that, then I truly believe that we stand a good chance of doing well there.”