Just like the Proteas in India a few days ago, Bafana failed to play the conditions at the sub-standard Huye Stadium in Butare, Rwanda.
When South Africa arrived at the stadium for the match, the playing surface – an ageing 25-year-old artificial grass pitch – was covered with water.
An hour or so earlier, a thunderstorm had occurred, and heavy rain left the pitch, which did not have drainage, waterlogged.
What were they thinking, or not thinking?
It did not occur to the visitors that conditions were unplayable and an objection would have been in order.
If the match officials did not agree that conditions were unplayable, South Africa should have played the match under protest.
Since the game went ahead, the technical staff – headed by coach Hugo Broos – should have told the team that because of the prevailing conditions, the game plan had to change.
Bafana could no longer play a ‘tiki-taka’ style, which is characterised by a short-passing game.
After 27 minutes, Rwanda had taken a shock 2-0 lead, playing what Broos termed ‘kick-and-rush’ football.
The four-man South African defence was hopeless against the speedy Rwandan attack, and goalkeeper Ronwen Williams seemed out of sorts.
He was left on his haunches and didn’t even attempt a dive to stop the ball when Rwanda scored their first goal.
Rwanda’s two strikes should have made it clear to the South Africans that the ‘kick-and-rush’ game was the way to go. Instead, they persisted with a passing game.
Nothing up front
As a result, South Africa seldom found their way into the final third. In the first half, they failed to record a shot at goal.
Rwanda, with much less possession, had four first-half shots at goal and two were on target, resulting in their eventual match-winning scoreline.
If there was no call from the pitch-side technical staff to change tactics, why did the on-field leadership not take the initiative and change tactics?
Williams was the captain, but he showed poor leadership by feeding his supporting defenders with the ball in the hope of staging attacks from deep positions, when building from the back was not an option.
This meant that defenders played the ball among themselves, mostly laterally, without making inroads into the opposition half.
They were frequently harassed by the opposition, and in desperation, they hacked the ball aimlessly upfield, often out of reach of the front runners.
At half-time, the Rwandan ground staff played their role in the gamesmanship of the hosts.
They used their water-clearing machines on the side of the field instead of on the pitch. The CAF match commissioner should also have spotted this and and stepped in.
By this time, the commissioner should have already got involved because of the absence of ball boys. It meant that playing time was lost because players had to retrieve the ball themselves, sometimes beyond the field’s perimeter.
Safa and the technical staff also did not find it necessary to ease the team’s burden due to the short turnaround time after the Benin match.
Given the importance of the World Cup qualification, a plane should have been chartered to fly the squad to Rwanda.
* The views expressed are not necessarily the views of IOL or Independent Media.
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