Will Bafana ever come of age?

Sport24 columnist S'Busiso Mseleku (File)
Sport24 columnist S'Busiso Mseleku (File)

Waking up in the wee hours of Friday morning was not an easy task.

Also, the South African men's senior national soccer team - Bafana Bafana - have not been covering themselves in glory of late.

So, to wake up and watch them  in a 04:00 kick-off, SA time, was not such a good prospect.

But boy, did they surprise!

They actually played their more polished and higher ranked Central American hosts, Costa Rica, off the park.

One would have sworn that this was not the Bafana we know.

And therein lies the rub!

These days, one just doesn't know which Bafana Bafana is going to turn up for a match.

One game, they are as hot as a furnace, the next, they are as cold as Antarctica.

Thing is, they seem to reserve their best showings for friendly matches, only to fall flat on their stomachs in competitive matches that count the most.

This is the reason why they have not done very well in competitions such as the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) and even the Soccer World Cup.

Following years of failing to qualify for the AFCON, Shakes Mashaba's team breezed through the qualification rounds of this year's version.

We were all singing Hallelujah as the team marched to the finals in Equatorial Guinea.

But what happened at the competition proper, was the usual. Bafana bombed out of the first round without winning a single game.

This is the inconsistency I'm talking about.

It is high time that Mashaba drummed it into the players that while friendly matches are important in preparing the team for competitive matches, qualifiers and the real competitions are even more important.

This is where most points are garnered for better FIFA rankings.

Right now, Bafana are in a precarious position as far as qualifying for the Gabon 2017 AFCON finals is concerned, having drawn goalless with Gambia and embarrassingly lost 3-0 to minnows Mauritania.

They will soon be up against Angola in a four-match series that includes two legs of the African Nations Championships (CHAN) qualifiers, followed by two legs of World Cup qualifiers against the same nation.

This is where Bafana Bafana will have to show that they are worth their salt and not just in friendly matches.

The inconsistency displayed by the team on the field is also reflective of Mashaba's unclear selection policy.

After being consistent in selecting players who were on top form at their clubs during the AFCON qualifiers, even daring to use untested youngsters such as Rivaldo Coetzee based on their form, Mashaba changed tact and returned to using old horses.

And this has backfired badly as the team is now so inconsistent it's no fun.

Perfect example is Keagan Dolly whom Mashaba dropped like a hot potato following a nightmarish debut against Sudan in Khartoum. However, the player is having a ball at Mamelodi Sundowns being in sizzling form but the coach seems to be turning a blind eye on him.

Mashaba must catch a wake-up call and bring the team back to the required consistency before it is too late. Or else, we will see our nation once more miss out on qualifying for the 2017 AFCON and the 2018 World Cup.

Perish the thought!

S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa's leading sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of the biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is currently City Press Sports Editor.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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