Relief was etched on the faces of the Bafana Bafana players after they brought to an end months of ridicule here on Friday evening, and for captain Siphiwe Tshabalala, the emphatic 3-0 win over Gabon was the start of a new chapter.
The past nine months in which South Africa were the source of scorn had been painful for the Kaizer Chiefs man and everyone else in camp, exacerbated by the departure of Pitso Mosimane as coach.
“We want to believe that what happened in the past belongs in the past – that this is the way going forward,” Tshabalala said after Friday’s friendly international here, during which he set Bafana on their way with a curled free-kick before Tokelo Rantie and Mzi Mashaba added second half goals to complete the rout.
“It hasn’t been an easy ride for us, but everyone worked hard tonight and we deserved this win. Throughout this period we had been playing nice football, but couldn’t score. This was different and we scored three times. We’ll need more of this positive attitude in future,” Shabba stated.
The tragedy for Bafana is that this win came in a friendly and not in a competitive game, after they’d flattered only to deceive in preceding World Cup qualifiers against Ethiopia and Botswana. They do not have a competitive match until the Africa Cup of Nations on home soil in January.
There was no question, however, that Friday’s win enhanced Steve Komphela’s chance of remaining in the technical team in some capacity.
The interim coach rung as many as seven chances, taking the bold decision of going into the game with a single anchorman and flooding the team with an array of attackers.
This enabled Bafana to besiege an under-strength Gabon, who had sent in an experimental side preparing for the London Olympic Games.
Komphela goes into Monday’s interview at Safa House, where he’ll be asked why he should get the job full-time, in high spirits.
“I don’t think tonight’s result has any bearing on the presentation I’m going to make,” Komphela said. “It would be unfortunate and opportunistic of me to expect to be judged on this.”
The Free State Stars coach showed immense courage, freshening up a side who surprised all and sundry.