CAPE TOWN – Bafana Bafana defender Thulani Hlatshwayo has urged his teammates to work hard on the “mental” aspect of beating smaller teams ahead of Saturday’s clash against Libya in Durban.
Losing or drawing with smaller countries has been one of the major pitfalls for Bafana over the last decade or so, and it was never more prevalent than in the last World Cup qualifying campaign.
Having originally drawn with Burkina Faso away, South Africa beat Senegal in Polokwane (a result later annulled), but proceeded to lose to Cape Verde Islands home and away.
They then lost the replay of the first Senegal game before losing away to the Lions of Teranga as well.
They have also gone down to Mauritania and Madagascar in the recent past.
Now Libya await at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday (3pm kickoff), and Hlatshwayo has warned his team not to let their guard down.
The South Africans beat Nigeria in their first 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier, but that match was played in June last year.
“We have to because we know what kind of a team Nigeria is. Talking about the so-called smaller teams, we have to make sure that we put in the display that we always display against the bigger countries,” Hlatshwayo told the media in Durban this week.
“I think it is a mental element to work on as players, not only as coaches, as the coaches give us the same team talk as he gives us against Nigeria. So, it’s a thing that we need to work on amongst the guys.”
The added motivation for South Africa was seeing Nigeria competing at the World Cup, and while it was a disastrous 2018 qualifying campaign, they are now eager to make it to the 2019 Afcon in Cameroon.
“We obviously watched the World Cup – watching Senegal and Nigeria playing there – knowing that we had just beaten Nigeria away,” the 28-year-old Wits defender said.
@BafanaBafana head coach Stuart Baxter having a chat with @AmaZuluFootball head coach Cavin Johnson at the Princess Magogo Stadium in KwaMashu shortly before the practice match between the two sides @SAFA_net pic.twitter.com/j2EaMPK1rP
“Now, the guys shouldn’t be discouraged, and need to make sure that we apply ourselves accordingly. This game on Saturday is so important, to make sure that we get a result. It might be the last opportunity for some of the guys to represent the country at Afcon.”