Molefi Ntseki will be hoping to get a win in his first assignment with Bafana Bafana. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
The city of Port Elizabeth is not known as the Windy City for no reason. As Bafana Bafana continued with preparations for their Nelson Mandela Challenge clash against Mali this week, gusty blows have been the norm all week long in this Eastern Cape economic hub. The game kicks off at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium at 3pm this afternoon.

The frequent strong winds are clearly very normal here as locals nonchalantly go about their business in the face of not-so-breezy air current. And Molefi Ntseki’s men have been training steadily in these abnormal weather patterns. In fact, the rapid wind seemed to send some air of confidence through the Bafana team this week.

Bafana finalised their preparations for this afternoon’s match yesterday morning outside the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium and they will be hoping the PE winds help them to blow away the West African nation, and do so with a masterclass performance to kick off the tenure of the new coach, Molefi Ntseki, in style.

“The people of the Eastern Cape and particularly in Port Elizabeth have been good to us. You can tell they really love their country. They really love their players. They’ve been very supportive since we’ve landed in Port Elizabeth,” Ntseki said, suggesting that the confidence among the players is also due to the support from the locals.

Bafana’s preparations got off to a stuttering start after a barrage of injuries hit the camp but the air of confidence has persisted.

“We’ve prepared well. Every player is looking forward to be given an opportunity to play. The game against Mali is not only a once off (affair) but it is for the preparations for the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers next month. Every player wants to be a part of that team. There is a good vibe here and the level of commitment is obvious,” he added.

Ntseki is facing a dilemma in selecting his first 11. The majority of the players have raised their hands. Their hunger has been evident, especially midfielders Keagan Dolly and Lebo Phiri.

“Weve prepared 23 of our players. It’s been a very good camp if you look at each and every one of them. They’ve all raised their hands to say I want to start, if I don’t start I want to come off the bench. It is very interesting for us all,” Ntseki explained, avoiding mentioning names of players that impressed him the most.

The final training session yesterday was about executing the plan in a game situation, with the emphasis more on offensive play. The intensity was high.

Striker Lebo Mothiba looks set to miss today’s clash because of a groin problem. He has not trained since coming into the camp early in the week.

“We will wait for the doctor to give us a final word on him if he is available or not. Our medical team have done well in terms of managing his situation,” Ntseki explained.

Meanwhile, Mali have gone about their business very quietly. They trained at the match venue on Friday after arriving in a very small white bus.

The West Africans have broken the hearts of the South Africans on few occasions. They sent Bafana packing from the quarter-finals of the 2002 Afcon hosted by their country. They replicated that performance in 2013 as they dumped Bafana at the same level of the tournament, but in South Africa that time around.

Bafana have enjoyed success in the past six years of the Madiba cup that the countries are competing for this afternoon, but Mali will be looking to spoil the party as they did in 2002 and 2013.

It is unlikely, however, that they will find it easy against a Bafana side that is oozing confidence. And depending on which team adapts quickly, there’s a little factor of the PE wind that may well force the punters to take a swinger (bet) on this one.

@minenhlecr7


Sunday Independent