PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA - APRIL 18, Thabo Nthethe (Bloemfontein Celtic) during the post match interview during the Absa Premiership match between Jomos Cosmos and Bloemfontein Celtic at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on April 18, 2012 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa Photo by Richard Huggard / Gallo Images

Bafana Bafana defender Thabo Nthethe says the current crop of players need to have the same level of understanding as the class of 1996, if they are to emulate Clive Barker’s African Nations Cup-winning side.

“I believe that team played together for a while and spent a lot of time together, on and off the pitch. They understood one another, which is why they went on to win the Nations Cup that year,” said Nthethe.

In less than three weeks Bafana will start their Nations Cup campaign on home soil against Cape Verde, and they will need to use the little time they have before that to make sure they understand one another and, more importantly, play as a unit.

Bafana landed in Cape Town last night to start preparing for their international friendly against Norway next Tuesday, and will fly back to Joburg after the clash for their last match before the Nations Cup against Algeria on January 12.

Nthethe says Bafana need to use the time they have in camp and the two friendlies wisely to ensure they are a solid unit come kick-off on January 19.

“This is a very important camp for us. We need to make sure we prepare well.

“I don’t think we are too far off from being ready for the tournament.

“We’ve been together for some time. We need to carry on working together so that we know our strong and weak points,” said Nthethe, who is likely to sit on the bench while Siyabonga Sangweni and Bongani Khumalo play in central defence.

“For me, the matches against Norway and Algeria will show us how much we still need to do to improve as a team. We need difficult games to prepare us for the tournament.”

The class of ’96 conceded just two goals, one in the group stage and another in a 2-1 quarter-final victory over Algeria, on their way to clinching South Africa’s one and only Nations Cup title, an impressive record that clearly shows that Neil Tovey, Lucas Radebe and Mark Fish worked tirelessly as a unit to tame opposition strikers.

Nthethe, who has played at right-back and in central defence for the national team, has stressed the importance of keeping it tight at the back to ensure they do well. “That they conceded just two goals shows that the team was competitive. It shows they were defending for each other. That’s what we need to do.

“If you don’t concede, there’s no way you can lose. We will defend as a unit and attack as a unit,” Nthethe said.

Bafana will have their first training session today at 11am at Athlone Stadium, and another at 4pm.