Sydney, Australia – Bafana can expect a fired up Australian outfit which cannot be taken lightly, coach Gordon Igesund said before his arrival in Sydney on Friday.
The South African camp touched down at 2.15pm local time (6.15am SA time) on Friday ahead of their clash with the Socceroos on Monday.
“If anybody underestimates Australia, then there’s something wrong. They’re a very good team, they’re going to the World Cup and they’re a very useful team,” he said.
“They’re a hugely talented team with four or five players that play in England and all over the place. They qualified in a very tough group and this is exactly the type of challenge that we want.”
Ranked 59th in the world, six spots above the visiting South Africans, the meeting between the two fierce rivals across all sporting codes serves as Australia’s final preparations before heading to Brazil for the World Cup, which gets underway on June 12.
Australia play their first match against Chile on June 13, while defending champions Spain and 2010 runners-up, the Netherlands, make up their Group B.
Despite a troubled build-up for the South African coach, following a total of 15 changes to his original squad due to player withdrawals, Igesund said he hoped many critics would take the time to watch the game.
He expected many to be surprised by the amount of young talent on show.
“We’re giving Australia respect and we’ll be watching a lot of their tapes from the last couple of weeks over and over and over,” the 57-year-old, four-time Premiership winning coach said.
“We’re in a very good space right now. You’ll see when you watch this team play against Australia. I’m not saying we’re going to win, but you’ll see a lot of talent out there and a lot of flair and that’s what’s been our plan.”
The squad arrived under somewhat of a cloud of cynicism, with media reports out of Australia, and particularly in New Zealand, less than complimentary towards the travelling South Africans.
Reports of a “B team” in anticipation of a “farcical contest” was splashed across the back pages.
Igesund, however, dismissed the comments out of hand, and branded the utterances “disrespectful” towards his young side.
“I get a bit frustrated when the squad I’ve chosen right now is so disrespected – they’re top players.
“People are more worried about the players that aren’t here. This squad deserves respect.
“We haven’t even played the game yet and people are talking about Bafana being a farce. I think it’s unbelievable to do that. Rather talk about that when we get back from the trip.
“It’s not fair that these players are getting criticised. Players have pulled out for legitimate reasons. It’s not a train smash, I’ve got a very good squad and I’m happy with my team.”
Bafana’s tour Down Under would be a taxing one, team manager Barney Kujane said, believing that the time difference between South Africa, Sydney and Auckland would be the team’s biggest challenge.
“Sydney is eight hours ahead of us and then we travel to New Zealand which is 10 hours ahead of us,” Kujane said.
“So we’re going to struggle a bit to settle, but we have talked to our medical people. They understand very well what they are expected to do.” – Sapa