“What we’ve picked up against Namibia is that playing against a physical and motivated team is what we’ll experience against Sao Tome”
BAFANA Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki says he expects the physicality and enthusiasm that were shown by Namibia during their international friendly on Thursday to be some of the key components that will characterise the Sao Tome and Principe approach.
The South Africans will clash with the islanders (Sao Tome) in back-to-back encounters of the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers next month as they aim to qualify for the continental showpiece in Cameroon.
However, in their first preparations for Sao Tome, Bafana played southern region neighbours Namibia to a 1-1 draw at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, thanks to a well taken first-half goal by Luther Singh, while the Brave Warriors equalised from Absalom Limbondi in the second.
It was not the desired outcome for Ntseki’s team, who, just like Namibia, had last tasted competitive football almost a year ago to the Covid-19 pandemic enforced hiatus. But nonetheless, the Bafana coach had a few pointers heading to their must win qualifiers next month.
“I think if you look at Namibia, with all due respect, they are not highly technical. But they play with big hearts, enthusiasm and are highly physical. And that’s something that we are fully aware of going to Sao Tome,” Ntseki said.
“And that is why we felt that playing with Namibia will definitely help us. So, what we’ve picked up against Namibia is that playing against a physical and motivated team is what we’ll experience against Sao Tome because they’ll be playing to win.”
Bafana’s preparations ahead of their Group C opponents did not end on Thursday. On Sunday, they’ll square off with neighbours Zambia at the same venue in Rustenburg – the Royal Bafokeng Stadium – with kick off scheduled for 3pm.
Ntseki opted for an experimental team against the Brave Warriors. Inexperienced players such as Singh and Lyle Foster made rare appearances for the national team. But it was debutants Thibang Phete, Siyethemba Sithebe and Thabo Nodada that impressed Ntseki.
“I think it was a bit tense for them playing for the national team for the first time. But overall, I think that they did very well because we were there to support them and make them believe that they can make a permanent feature in the national team,” he said.
Top of Bafana’s agenda may be their continental showpiece qualifiers next month, but at the back of their minds will also be the 2021 congested calendar year. Next year, Bafana will conclude their Afcon qualifiers and begin with the 2022 Qatar Fifa World Cup qualifiers.
Ntseki, however, will be pleased with how players such as Singh are showing signs of maturity from the outset. The FC Paços de Ferreira striker will also be earmarked to play a key role for the Under 23 national team during their involvement in the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games.
“He’s a highly talented player. But I keep saying to him, if he can just up his game a little, he can be a winner for the national team. By the way, he’s the one who took the Under 20 team to the World Cup in 2017,” Ntseki said.
“He’s a quality player. The most important thing for us is to manage him and make him understand that he needs to discover himself. He needs to play more of his strengths. In the first half, he was actually causing problems for Namibia.”