Bafana Bafana opened the first chapter of a new dawn with a 3-2 win against Uganda at Orlando Stadium on Thursday night.
Starting on a winning note is an ideal beginning that any new coach dreams of and stand-in coach on the night, Helman Mkhalele, paved the way for his principal Hugo Broos in this respect.
Mkhalele was entrusted with the responsibility of guiding the team in the absence of Broos, who was back home to get his second jab of the Covid-19 vaccine in Belgium.
Added to the absentees list was first assistant coach Cedomir Janevski, who tested positive for Covid-19 on the eve of the game. The Macedonian had to isolate, leaving the Orlando Pirates legend as the sole instructor in the dugout.
Of the game itself, Bafana never really put up an all-round performance that would have gained them full marks on any other day.
Instead, it was the second-half introduction of Maritzburg United striker Thabiso Kutumela – who is not new to the setup – and Evidence Makgopa that showed the novices the way to the goals.
Makgopa, who scored a brace, opened and closed the scoresheet for the hosts, and Maritzburg young striker Bongokuhle Hlongwane slid in to put Bafana in the lead at the 67th-minute mark.
Mkhalele handed debuts to seven players, with only goalkeeper Ronwen Williams, defender Innocent Maela and striker Lebohang Maboe the most senior players in the starting XI.
It was inevitable that the newcomers would struggle for cohesion in a structure where a few players were deployed differently from their role at their clubs.
Bafana could also have done better to thwart Uganda’s move that resulted in the hosts going down early in the game through a 13th minute strike by Ibrahim Orit.
The hosts were fortunate not to have conceded shortly after the opening goal from another Uganda breakthrough, who almost forced a draw towards the end of the match as Bafana barely hung on for the win.
Nevertheless, Broos will have some notes to work with as the game was the first phase in the team’s preparation for the World Cup qualifiers that resume in September.
South Africa is in the same group as Ghana, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia.