Cach Ephraim Shakes Mashaba believes the international friendly clash against Zambia is a very crucial match for his charges as they prepare for the CAF Orange Africa Cup of Nations Equatorial Guinea 2015 tournament which starts next month (17 January to 8 February 2015).
This will be the first match South Africa plays since Mashaba selected his final 23-man squad going to the tournament.
A total of 22 players reported for national duty with the exception of England-based Dean Furman who is expected in South Africa on Monday, 5 January.
Bafana Bafana and Zambia, who have also qualified for AFCON 2015, will lock horns on Sunday, 4 January 2015 at Orlando Stadium in Soweto.
Kick-off is at 15h00.
“We are playing against a side that is quick going forward. They are very aggressive and need not be taken lightly. They are also building a new side and have qualified for AFCON 2015 so we are on par, the difference will be seen after the match,” said Mashaba.
“We are looking at three things in this match. We are bidding our fans farewell and it is going to be very important to leave on a very good note. It is also a game where we need to maintain our winning momentum, should we not do well in this game it will disturb our rhythm, and lastly it will give us the players’ state of readiness and a chance to see where our players are in terms of fitness heading into the tournament.”
Bafana Bafana will be without the midfield pair of Furman and Andile Jali, as well as left-back Patrick Phungwayo.
Jali and Phungwayo have been left out of the match as a precaution as they are nursing knee injuries.
“We also need to give other players a chance to see what they can do. Nelson Mandela said it looks impossible until it can be done. Today people sit and say if we don’t have Jali or if we don’t have Furman we are in trouble, but they forget there is a player waiting for that chance to play, we need to spur them on and encourage them because we are not going to come back to you and say Dean is not here or so and so is not here. Let’s push them in and let them play so they show us what they can do,” added Mashaba.
The Bafana Bafana mentor has also cautioned his players against complacency now that they have made it into the final team.
“Zambia is going to be a challenge because all the players will be playing out of their skin to impress the coach before he announces the squad that will travel to Equatorial Guinea, but we ready for them. On the other hand this match could pose a problem for our boys where complacency creeps in because they are already in the final squad going to AFCON 2015, so we need to guard against that.
“Zambia has been in camp for a couple of weeks, never went on a break so they could be sharper than us, but our boys are professionals and despite the two-day break they will give their best. We need to instil into our players that this is not a practice match but a very crucial clash. The only way of maintaining the momentum is by winning the match,” said Mashaba.
The Bafana Bafana players also took time off their schedule to visit their fans in Soweto and encourage them to come to the match. The squad visited Jabulani Mall, Maponya Mall and Southgate Mall, handing out tickets for the match to appreciative fans.
“We went to the fans today because we belong to them. This thing of isolating ourselves because we are Bafana Bafana is not a good thing. We have also encouraged our players that after training sessions we don’t jump into the bus but to go shake hands with those fans who came to watch.
“While the exercise of going to meet the fans might not bring in many to the stadium but where they are today they are happy to have seen and met the players because some of them don’t even have money to go to the stadium. For us to have gone to them spiritually they will be with the team and I think that was the best thing we have done,” concluded the head coach.