Bafana Bafana will miss out on the upcoming 2018 Russia World Cup showpiece, largely due to their back-to-back defeats against Cape Verde – a tiny island country with a population of just 539 560 people.
“Their problem is their mental state when they go into games,” Tovey said.
“They are all very good players but when it comes to turning out for the national team their approach is different. They take things for granted, like it’s just another game.
“How ridiculous to go and beat Nigeria, and then come back and lose to Cape Verde at home. It’s not on. It’s totally a mental thing. They need to get themselves tuned into the difference between professional club football and international football.
“Playing for your country at international level requires so much more than what is required from you at club level.
“Now the number of Bafana Bafana players returning from European football to play in the Premier Soccer League has been high in the past few years.
“As a result, the big three clubs - Mamelodi Sundowns, Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs – are not afraid to put up big money to lure these unhappy players back from overseas into their teams.”
Tovey, the 55-year-old former Chiefs defender, believes that the comfort of the PSL is what misleads the players at times.
“It really is a major problem. Players simply get too comfortable in the PSL, so when it comes to playing for Bafana they’re out of their depth,” he explained.
“They don’t want to challenge themselves overseas. The PSL is of a very high quality and it’s a well ran organisation, but the challenges of the European leagues give them the opportunity to better themselves. I believe the national team is not doing as well as it should because they are not challenging themselves enough.’’
A crop of young players have been called into the current Bafana squad for their Cosafa Cup campaign that starts tomorrow in the quarter-finals against Madagascar in Polokwane.
This means that there could be new faces in the team building up to the 2019 African Cup on Nations.
The South Africans are second in qualifying Group E with three points after beating Nigeria in their opener. Their next assignment is against group leaders Libya on September, 18.
Tovey, the 1996 Afcon-winning captain, says that players who do well in the Cosafa Cup will probably be selected to fill the gaps in the squad.
“Doing well in the Cosafa Cup creates confidence and opportunity building up the Afcon qualifiers,’’ he said.
“There are certainly gaps in Bafana Bafana because the last bunch of players certainly have not done the job. So when coach Stuart Baxter sees that, he’ll have a chance to say that a certain player has answered the question through Cosafa.”