DURBAN – Bafana Bafana skipper, Thulani “Tyson” Hlatshwayo, is well aware that they can’t afford to underestimate Libya.
Bafana will welcome the Mediterranean Knights to the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday in a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
Bafana got off to a flying start in their opening Group E fixture, beating Nigeria 2-0 away in June last year. They are level with Libya on three points at the top of the group. The North Africans dispatched Seychelles 5-1 in the first match.
The national team have a tendency of choking against lesser-known teams. In the last couple of years, they have suffered defeats to Ethiopia, Cape Verde, Mauritania, Madagascar and Niger.
Bafana have also been held by countries like Gambia and Sierra Leone at home.
Speaking with media on Tuesday, Hlatshwayo, made it clear that they will give Libya the respect they deserve.
“We have to continue on the same vein in which we started the qualifiers. We know the kind of team Libya is. We have to display the strongest performance we always put (against bigger opponents). It is the mentality that we need to work on as players. The coaches always give us the same team talks (regardless of the opposition), “ the 28-year-old explained.
Bafana have failed to qualify for the past two major tournaments. Beating the so-called minnow teams has been Bafana’s major demise in their quest to qualify for the World Cup and Afcon. In 2017 Bafana missed out on Afcon after failing to beat Gambia and Mauritania at home, while they were embarrassed away as they succumbed to a 3-1 defeat against Mauritania.
“We have to work on our mentality. We have to beat Libya and (the) Seychelles and by the time we host Nigeria we would have secured our place,” he added.
Bafana have been hampered by injuries to key players. They lost the services of players like Hlompo Kekana, Themba Zwane, Lebo Mothiba and Bongani Zungu on Monday. Additionally, Bradley Grobler and Dean Furman are still doubtful after sustaining knocks while representing SuperSport United this past weekend.
Bafana coach, Stuart Baxter, has replaced the injured players with the likes of Aubrey Modiba, Vincent Pule, Mxolisi Macupu and Tiyani Mabunda.
“We know that we’ve lost the guys that played against Nigeria. It will be an opportunity for the new guys to step up. This is not our (club) teams but it is a country and we must work hard against Libya,” Hlatshwayo explained.
Baxter called up four of Wits’ back five to his squad in Sifiso Hlanti, Hlatshwayo, Darren Keets and Buhle Mkhwanazi. Wits have kept three clean sheets in five PSL outings this season and only conceded two goals. They have been by the far the best team defensively this campaign.
“It is up to the coach where will he play me. Ever since the season started I’ve been playing as a right-back. We know one another. It will make the job much easier for us. We will make sure that we will keep the communication going,” Hlatshwayo concluded.