DURBAN - When Senegal and Burkina Faso drew their World Cup qualifier a day after South Africa lost to Cape Verde at the weekend, there might have been a collective sigh of relief across the country, but in the Bafana Bafana camp striker Bradley Grobler was disappointed.
He was down because South Africa had lost an opportunity to go top of the Group D standings following their 2-1 upset in Praia, and the goalless result in Dakar 24 hours later. Had Grobler and company banked full points, South Africa would have been two points clear at the summit and smiling.
Instead, they go into the return affair with Cape Verde at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium tonight occupying third position. The start of the second half of the qualifying campaign for Russia 2018 offers South Africa a shot at redemption, one which the Supersport United forward is determined to grab.
“I’m extremely disappointed, especially after the result in Senegal,” said Grobler from the squad’s uMhlanga hotel base. “It was a big opportunity to make our mark on the group. We missed our opportunity and we’ve got to learn from it; we all know it was not our best performance.
"The artificial pitch could have played a bit of a part (in the performance) but to be honest I think everyone is professional and played on artificial pitches many times, so we’re not going to make that an excuse. On the day, we could have been five percent better and I think we would have won the game. So I’m not going to blame the pitch at all.”
He was optimistic the team would bounce back, even though this is expected to be a vastly revamped unit. Central defender Clayton Daniels is expected to slot in next to captain Thulani Hlatshwayo after Erick Mathoho was sent off in the second half against Cape Verde. The other option is for veteran Morgan Gould to link with Hlatshwayo.
“No doubt this game is huge. It comes after a bad result and we want to rectify that. We had a good meeting and the guys are still in good spirits. We have a good enough squad,” Grobler added.
"We have to go out and win the rest of the games, that’s the plan. We believe in ourselves, and I believe if we were five to 10 percent better on the day the last result could have been a lot different. Coming back home we’ll give our best and definitely go out to win the game."
Should he play, Grobler can expect greater supply, with Baxter likely to field attacking midfielder Thulani Serero. The Dutch-based player arrived in camp with a hamstring niggle, which kept him out of the first match as a precautionary measure.
Friday’s victory by Cape Verde was their first against South Africa. Nuno Rocha’s double strike in the first half cancelled Tokelo Rantie’s opener for Baxter’s men, and earned the islanders their first goals and points in the group. With that result they will be upbeat on Tuesday, cautioned Baxter.
“Cape Verde will be more confident now than otherwise. They will come buoyed by the win and they’ll be hopeful. I see a much more competitive game now. We also now know better what we are facing and there will be changes accordingly,” said the coach.
The game kicks off at 7pm and will be televised on SS4/SABC1.