at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Johannesburg – Proteas skipper Graeme Smith has wished South Africa's national soccer team Bafana Bafana all the best for their Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) quarterfinal encounter against Mali at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday.
“To Bongani (Khumalo) and Gordon Igesund and the rest of the Bafana team, just know that the Proteas are right behind them,” Smith said ahead of the Proteas' first Test against Pakistan starting Friday – Smith's 100th Test as captain of the national team.
“We will be watching. Hopefully we'll get back from the game in time and get behind the television and support them.
“Just like every other South African we'll be right behind them.”
Speaking as one of the country's most capped leaders in sport, Smith believed Khumalo had done an excellent job of rallying his troops and gave the skipper a bit of advice for Saturday's knockout fixture.
“Bongani is handling the job extremely well. The pressures of a home tournament are huge,” Smith said.
“But Bafana have been so resilient, they came through the group phase which no-one really gave them a chance to do.
“Now they are here (quarter-finals) with the opportunity to go on and push further. Now with the extra pressure and opportunity to keep on doing what they are doing, they will feel that energy of all the people around.
“Often in sport there is so much pressure that you feel and the expectation of the result, you forget about really enjoying the moment and hopefully when they get out there, through that enjoyment, they'll just be able to play their best football.”
Bafana Bafana also had kind words for Smith ahead of his 100th Test.
The team held up banner at the their training session reading: “Cheers to 100 Graeme. Here’s to the next 100.”
Smith thanked the team on twitter after retweeting a copy of the picture. “Thx so much bafana bafana. Amazing.”
Bafana qualified top of group A, after a goalless draw with Cape Verde, a 2-0 victory over Angola and a 2-2 stalemate with Morocco was enough to see them through to the next round. – Sapa