Cape Town - The stellar achievements of Banyana Banyana have raised the bar for South Africa's national teams and Bafana Bafana were the first to feel the pressure to grind out match winning performances.
On Saturday, South Africa were held to a goalless draw by the Comoro Islands in their first-round second-leg African Nations Championship (CAN) match at the Dobsonville Stadium, Soweto.
However, the stalemate did not prevent South Africa from advancing to the final round of qualifying after their 1-0 first-leg win secured an aggregate win. South Africa will meet Angola who eliminated Mauritius with a 2-0 aggregate win over the weekend.
The final round of qualifying will also be played over two legs. South Africa will play hosts Angola at the end of August and the return leg will be in Johannesburg at the start of September. The aggregate winner will qualify for the 18-team competition that will be hosted by Algeria in January last year.
Bafana Bafana coach Helman Mkhalele was rudely surprised by the team's low-key performance on Saturday after the team was impressive in their 1-0 away win over the Islanders a week ago.
Mkhalele feels his charges may have felt the pressure to do well at a time when the country was celebrating Banyana Banyana's African conquest.
Bafana lacked intensity and did not create pressure situations to crack the opposition defence. Comoros finished the game strongly in a last-ditch attempt to score a goal.
“I thought that since we were playing at home we would do well, and dominate," said Mkhalele. "Maybe there is also the pressure of being part of Bafana Bafana after we saw seeing Banyana Banyana coming back following their victorious campaign at the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations.
"I would seem that might have created pressure on the players because they loo looked totally different. I feel that could have been one of the reasons why they did not come up to scratch.
"Saturday was a different game. I thought we were going to play better and dominate the match but, we did not do that. We were playing at home so I felt we would do better.
"We played much better in the first leg last week. This time, there was a lack of a sense of urgency and when I looked at the players they were flat."
Mkhalele's post-match comments should be taken seriously because it would be a disaster if the team did not qualify for 2023 Chan in Algeria next January.
The CHAN matches do not fall within the FIFA international calendar, which means clubs are not obliged to release players. Even worse, clubs do not release players for camps although their no matches in progress.
When the final qualifying round is played in August (26-28) and September (2-4), clubs will not be obliged to release players for national team duty. Over that period the Premiership and First Division matches will be in full swing and PSL clubs would not want to weaken their teams by releasing players for national team duty.
It is time that national team head coach Hugo Broos start paying attention to the CHAN competition and play his part in preparing the team alongside Mkhalele. It may be a good idea to target players, not only Under-23’, and start talking to clubs about releasing them during the CHAN final qualifying round.