All about pride for SA in dead rubber

2016-09-07 06:00
Bafana Bafana defender Thulani Hlatshwayo and coach Shakes Mashaba address the media in Johannesburg. PHOTO: gallo images

Bafana Bafana defender Thulani Hlatshwayo and coach Shakes Mashaba address the media in Johannesburg. PHOTO: gallo images

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THE senior national football team have nothing but pride to play for when they take on Mauritania at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit this Friday.

Bafana Bafana’s Africa Cup of Nations 2017 qualification campaign has been a total shambles, and Shakes Mashaba’s men being eliminated before the final game says as much.

Now it’s up to the team to pick up whatever pride they may have left, and start building towards trying to qualify for the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia, which, unfortunately, is not in Mashaba’s mandate, who stated this week that their goal was preparing a team for Qatar in 2022.

Bidvest Wits captain Thulani Hlatshwayo has had a good start to the season so far, leading his side to 2-1 victories against both Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates where he scored in both games, and he was confident of carrying on for the national team where he left off with his club.

“They always say a good defender is the one who scores goals, even though we have strikers in the team. At the moment, it is just that I am at the right place at the right time and given a chance, I will go forward and try to score,” the defender said about his performances for his club.

“They say you are only as good as your last game. Given a chance to play, I will use it whenever called upon. We have to get a result, more so because we are playing at home …”

Mashaba will be without his main defensive duo with Rivaldo Coetzee pulling out of the side through illness, and Erick Matoho, who damaged his ankle ligaments on national duty at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, also absent.

“The coach knows that everyone called upon here can do the job, they have the ability to perform, and I know anyone given a chance to play they will do their best so I will also take to the field with a winning mentality when given a chance,” said Hlatshwayo.

Speaking about the game against the north Africans, he said: “It’s about pride for the country, and as the coach has been saying, there are no friendly games when you play for South Africa.

“We will make sure we play to the best of our abilities to win the match because to be called up to the national team is an honour.”

It’s the same rhetoric Mashaba and his team have been repeating time and time again over the last year, but the results have not been forthcoming.

That South Africa failed yet again to qualify for the continental showpiece is a disaster for the once proud football nation that briefly walked among the greats, and had Brazilian legend Pele declaring that an African country would win the World Cup before long.

Coetzee, and Ajax Cape Town teammate Prince Nxumalo, who was also forced out of the squad through injury this week, will be replaced by Chippa United’s Diamond Thopola and Orlando Pirates’ Thabiso Kutumela, who was part of the under-23s in Rio.

The game at Mbombela Stadium will kick off at 7.05 pm.

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