Kermit Erasmus celebrates with his Bafana Bafana teammates after opening the scoring with a penalty against Guinea-Bissau. Photo: Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePix
Kermit Erasmus celebrates with his Bafana Bafana teammates after opening the scoring with a penalty against Guinea-Bissau. Photo: Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePix
Andile Jali (left) acknowledges the crowd, along with Hlompho Kekana, at a rain-swept Moses Mabhida Stadium after converting a penalty. Photo: Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePix
Andile Jali (left) acknowledges the crowd, along with Hlompho Kekana, at a rain-swept Moses Mabhida Stadium after converting a penalty. Photo: Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePix
Sundowns star Percy Tau scored his first international goal for Bafana with a cool finish. Photo: Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePix
Sundowns star Percy Tau scored his first international goal for Bafana with a cool finish. Photo: Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePix

DURBAN – A day after the Durban skyline was dulled by plumes of smoke from a factory fire, Bafana Bafana brightened the city with a performance full of promise when they beat Guinea Bissau 3-1 at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday.

The foreign flavour clicked for South Africa, who went into the break 1-0 up but might have been three goals ahead by halftime with better composure and awareness.

Back from the wilderness after his last game away to Nigeria in 2014, striker Kermit Erasmus marked his return with a penalty in the 36th minute.

Thulani Serero was hacked in the box by defender Rudinilson Silva, and France-based Erasmus coolly slotted past goalkeeper Papa Mabaye for his second senior goal in 12 appearances.

Immediately the heavens opened, and the rains fell almost like a blessing for the dawn of a new era.

Erasmus, who previously excused himself from the national side in frustration at being overlooked by former coach Ephraim Mashaba, was lively in leading the attack as the main forward, with support from another France-based player in midfielder Keagan Dolly and Thulani Serero, who is based in the Netherlands.

The other notable selection was that of another Dutch-based midfielder Kamohelo Mokotjo, who controlled play in the centre of the park alongside regular starter Dean Furman.

Mokotjo’s return to the fold was dramatic in that he officially regained South African nationality the day before. Having had a fall-out with Mashaba over his non-selection, Mokotjo last year switched to Dutch citizenship.

He applied for a resumption of citizenship, which the Department of Home Affairs issued within a week.

Mashaba’s exit heralded a new era under caretaker coach Owen da Gama, who oversaw his second match since the latter was suspended in November and later dismissed.

It opened the way for the sidelined players who appeared eager to grab their opportunity as South Africa begins a new international cycle with the start of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in June away to Nigeria.

Safa president Danny Jordaan and Cosafa chief Philip Chiyangwa were among the dignitaries who witnessed this refreshing showing by Bafana Bafana against a side that played at the recent Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon.

It wasn’t only the overseas-based stars who made an impact. Young Percy Tau of African champions Mamelodi Sundowns made his debut with a second-half goal.

Minutes after his introduction for Erasmus, the winger got booked, but made up for it with a curled strike beyond goalkeeper Mabaye in the 69th minute.

The “Wild Dogs” from West Africa hit back with Aldair Baldé scoring from close range 10 minutes later, but South Africa were not to be denied a victory over the visitors in this first meeting between the sides.

Substitute midfielder Hlompho Kekana won a penalty, which was converted by Andile Jali, who earlier replaced Themba Zwane.

The latter had a solid outing in midfield and might have scored in the first period had his shot not taken a deflection before the goalie saved it.

This was South Africa’s first outing since November, when they faced Mozambique in a friendly.

On Tuesday night, Bafana Bafana host Angola in East London in another friendly aimed at preparing the squad for September’s resumption of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

Independent Media