Thabo Mnyamane's consistent form for SuperSport United has earned him a Bafana call-up. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu, BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Just before University of Pretoria were relegated to the first division last season, and Thabo Mnyamane switched to the other side of Tshwane, a senior player at AmaTuks accused the 24-year-old of getting big-headed.

That player argued that the attention Mnyamane was getting – from being called up to Bafana Bafana, scoring on debut for the national team against Swaziland two years ago and the rave reviews he was showered with – had gotten to Mnyamane’s head to the point that he didn’t even push himself at training.

It’s easy to see how he could fall into that trap. Mnyamane was a big fish in a small pond, guaranteed a place in the starting XI because of his talent and the limited options the club had.

At SuperSport United, there are plenty of options should he slack off with the side challenging for honours, even on the continent, unlike at AmaTuks, whose ambition was to survive.

That competition has brought the best out of Mnyamane. If he isn’t scoring, he is coming up with assists.

“Being in a team with bigger demands has helped me set my goals higher and make me demand a lot from myself,” Mnyamane said.

“That means I am growing as a player. I need to adjust to the demands of the team. What I like about this team is that there is no pressure, even though we are expected to do well and win things.”

Mnyamane arrived in the Bafana Bafana camp this week high on confidence after Matsatsantsa thumped Al-Ahly Shendi 4-0 on Sunday to win the tie 6-3 on aggregate and advance to the CAF Confederation Cup playoffs.

SuperSport will take on Liberian side Barrack Young Controllers, with the first leg in Monrovia in two weeks’ time before they host the second leg at Lucas Moripe Stadium.

The last continental trip SuperSport undertook exposed Mnyamane to the gruelling demands of competing in Caf competitions.

Mnyamane and company flew for 18 hours from Johannesburg to Dubai and then to Khartoum before they drove for three hours to Shendi.

They then played in hot conditions, with temperatures reaching 38°C. Three days later, they were starting their Nedbank Cup title defence in Pietermaritzburg.

“Playing at this level makes you see football in a different perspective,” Mnyamane said. “It has helped me to understand that I need to be stronger and how to deal with more physical opponents.

“African teams play with a lot of heart and hunger. It takes something special to beat that. This is my first time playing continental football, and I think that it has prepared me well for Bafana, not just on this camp, but future camps too.”

What should give Mnyamane confidence that he could be in more Bafana camps in the future is that everyone is starting on a clean slate with an interim coach in Owen da Gama.

A permanent coach will take over from Da Gama after the two friendlies against Guinea-Bissau and Angola.

But just because everyone is on a clean slate doesn’t mean Mnyamane will just walk into the team.

He now has to prove that he deserves to stay in the set-up. Continuing with his scoring form will help him do that.

“It would be a great achievement to reach double digits,” Mnyamane said.

“I have scored seven goals in all competitions. I would like to end the season with double digits.”

The Star