Aaron Mokoena’s international career is in the balance after he suffered a shock South Africa axing.
The Bafana Bafana skipper has not been selected for their 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Egypt.
Capped 104 times by his country, the Pompey defender had been expected to be included for the March 26 fixture at Ellis Park.
Yet Mokoena – nicknamed the Axe – failed to make coach Pitso Mosimane’s 24-man squad.
Instead, Spurs midfielder Steven Pienaar was promoted to captain the side in a match South Africa must win to keep them at the top of their group.
A hint of what may have laid ahead for Mokoena came when he was excluded from the squad for a friendly against the United States last November and was only a substitute in another warm-up match last month with Kenya.
Nonetheless, it was still a surprise when he was not named by Mosimane.
Mokoena has already lost his Pompey starting spot during the past eight matches, ever since returning to South Africa to renew his work visa.
Now he has been dumped by his international side.
South Africa’s coach refused to explain the reasons behind his controversial decision.
Mosimane said: ‘We need all our experienced players for a big match like this but we also need to move forward.
‘I love and respect Aaron and have protected him when all the “wolves” were against him.
‘He has given his best as captain but this time he is not in the team I have selected.’
Mokoena was criticised for being slow and indecisive during the 2010 World Cup as South Africa became the first host nation not to reach the second round.
But former national team striker Mosimane, who succeeded Brazilian Carlos Alberto Parreira after the Cup, kept faith with him for Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Niger and Sierra Leone.