Themba Zwane of South Africa during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Finals match against Ivory Coast. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

CAIRO – Namibia beware, the Themba Zwane who stole the show in the CAF Champions League with Mamelodi Sundowns is coming for you.

The real Themba Zwane is yet to show up at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon). The creative wizard was a shadow of himself in Bafana Bafana’s 1-0 loss to Ivory Coast where South Africa didn’t have a shot on target.

“We were not sharp enough. Our movement was slow. We were not pressing. That’s what we have been working on for the second game,” Zwane said.

Bafana take on Namibia tonight at Al Salam Stadium in their second match of Group B, while Morocco will square off with Ivory Coast at 7pm at the same stadium.

Zwane will be looking to resurrect his Champions League form where he scored six goals for Sundowns, one goal short of the top goalscorer, Moataz Al-Mehdi of Al-Nasr. Zwane enjoys rubbing shoulders with the best in the continent.

Themba Zwane: We were not sharp enough against Ivory Coast. Our movement was slow. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix
Themba Zwane: We were not sharp enough against Ivory Coast. Our movement was slow. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

“It’s a good experience,” Zwane said. “Every time I play in the continent, I learn a lot.

“I am playing against good players, quality players. It’s good for me and my football to grow. I am happy that I scored as much as I did in the Champions League, it showed that I was doing well. The only thing that I need to do is to carry on from where I left off. I want to take my form to the Afcon. I want to help wherever I can, so that the team wins.”

Bafana must beat Namibia if they are to keep alive their chances of progressing from the group.

The Southern African sides started their campaigns with 1-0 losses, which will add fuel to this derby that has produced some classics - like South Africa’s 4-1 thumping of Namibia in the 1998 Afcon where Benni McCarthy scored the country’s only hat-trick in the global showpiece.

The Brave Warriors spoke excitedly about this contest, viewing it as their best chance of getting points in this tough group.

Namibia’s coach Ricardo Mannetti said his team isn’t even looking or talking about the last 16 as they know their limitations. But he said they would play a key role in deciding who goes through from Group D. The side will be looking at being a speed bump in Bafana’s road to the last 16.

“We know that Namibia is going to come at us,” Zwane said. “We need to be organised. We need to take care of the ball.

“We need to play those combinations that make us good and we need to hit them on the counter-attack because when they come at us, they will be open at the back. We need to catch them on the counter-attack because we have speed at the back.”

Themba Zwane (left) of South Africa is challenged by Franck Kessie of Ivory Coast. Photo: EPA/Ryan Wilkisky
Themba Zwane (left) of South Africa is challenged by Franck Kessie of Ivory Coast. Photo: EPA/Ryan Wilkisky

Bafana will play with more fluidity and speed because the match takes place at 10pm. The temperature will be cooler than the hot conditions they experienced in the opening match which started at 4.30pm.

“The good thing about this team is that we understand each other,” Zwane said.

“We all want to do well. We want to win. We have the goals. We understand each other, and the coach encourages us. We know that back home they want results. It’s all about handling it.

We have to try our best to make them happy by winning the game.

We have to push ourselves.”

Malik Said