Cape Town – Having been involved in two major Cup finals already this season for his club side, Bafana Bafana defender Vuyo Mere believes his re-introduction to international competition has been made smoother as a result.
Platinum Stars lifted both the MTN8 and the Telkom Knockout titles late last year, with Mere skippering the team on both occasions, which earned him a justified call-up to the national team for the African Nations Championship (Chan) this month.
Stars struggled to pull much of a crowd whenever they played their home games at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, but having been involved in the two finals, where the games were played on neutral ground and allowed Dikwena to play in front of capacity crowds, Mere says he has benefited from the experience.
“It’s been a confidence booster for me. As you know, at my team, we don’t have that much support,” Mere said before Bafana’s training session in Pinelands, Cape Town on Friday afternoon.
“I think the Cup finals really helped me a lot, playing in front of 60 or 70,000 people and I think it really gave me a platform to come and perform here for the national team.
“The pressure is there, but it’s not that much because I’ve been there, playing in front of big crowds before.”
Mere, who made his international debut for South Africa during the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations, said that Bafana would be in for a tough assignment in getting a positive result against Nigeria in their final group A game in Cape Town on Sunday.
South Africa still top their group, thanks to a superior goal-difference over Mali, but will need to avoid defeat against Nigeria on Sunday to progress to the next round.
Nigeria beat Mozambique 4-2 in the game directly after Bafana’s 1-1 draw with the Malians on Wednesday, meaning the pair will battle it out for a qualification spot up for grabs from group A at 7pm Sunday.
“It’s an important game for us, everybody knows that. We should have wrapped it up in the last game we played, but the good thing is that it’s in our hands now and it’s all or nothing,” Mere said.
“We’re not expecting any favours from anybody, they’re a good side, not taking anything away from them.
“But we are more than ready, we’re preparing well. The technical team is arming us with every weapon we’re going to need on Sunday.”
Already an accomplished captain with his club outfit, Mere quickly quashed any notions that goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune was not the first choice leader, but added that the entire squad had a role to play in taking ownership of the national team.
“I can’t say I’m the captain, but everyone is a captain, everybody has to do his part.
“We all know that Itu (Khune) is a great captain, he leads from the back, but we also have to help him.
“Sometimes he can’t hear, he can’t shout and do everything. Everybody in the team is a leader, so we have to take responsibility and take the team forward.” – Sapa