Durban – South Africa must risk losing sometimes to improve their football fortunes.
The team can only learn from defeats against top opponents, said Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund after his team were humbled 2-0 by Nigeria in the Nelson Mandela Challenge friendly match in Durban on Wednesday.
“It was a good exercise for us because we need to play teams like Nigeria,” he said.
“They are a very strong team with very good players who play at a high level and it was a good test for us. We can only improve; you can see they’ve been playing against good opposition and we need to continue doing this in order to grow.
“We can’t be afraid to lose. If I was afraid to lose I could have called up players like Thulani Serero, Daylon Claasen and Ayanda Patosi. We have to expose our players to teams like Nigeria, Germany, Argentina. I gave (Luyolo) Nomandela an opportunity. It was a big occasion and I wanted to see his character. For (Lebogang) Manyama as well, I wanted to see what he can do; otherwise there’s no opportunity to see them,” Igesund said of the two players who got a run during the second half of the defeat against the Super Eagles.
Two second half strikes from Uche Nwafor downed Bafana Bafana.
Although they pressed the Nigerians, they were always short in the final third. Impatience, rustiness and the gulf in quality cancelled out South Africa’s chances of pulling a goal back.
“They looked sharper, but we were also a bit rusty, having last played against Ethiopia in June. We learnt a lot from this outing and we know where to rectify,” said Igesund as he took aim at their weekend opponents – Burkina Faso – in the Nelson Mandela Sport and Culture Day at FNB Stadium.
The clash against the African Cup of Nations runners-up is not on a date reserved for friendly internationals by Fifa and midfielder Dean Furman and striker Tokelo Rantie won’t feature as they have returned to Europe.
In their absence Igesund has another opportunity to throw in fringe players to test their big match temperament in preparation for the final World Cup group qualifying game against Botswana in Durban on September 7.
Although Igesund’s preparations for these two friendlies were disrupted by player withdrawals – up to 10 players were withdrawn from the original 28-man squad – he stood by his decision to release six Orlando Pirates players so that they could prepare for their club’s African Champions League match against Zamalek of Egypt on Saturday.
“Today it is Pirates and next time it could be Kaizer Chiefs in the same situation. The precedent has been set and it is in the interest of the national team that we support our clubs. Pirates are representing the SA Football Association in the Champions League and if they do well it’s good for the players,” said Igesund.