An emotional Helman Mkhalele was thankful for the overwhelming support he said his side felt from the nation as a new-look Bafana Bafana secured a thrilling 3-2 win over Uganda in an International Friendly at Orlando Stadium on Thursday.
A brace by substitute Evidence Makgopa and a goal by Bongokuhle Hlongwane, both on debut, sealed a comeback win for the hosts as a new era for South African football got underway.
Mkhalele, an icon of SA football, found himself in charge of a decimated team for Thursday's encounter after a number of positive Covid-19 cases which included first assistant coach Cedomir Janevski.
Nicknamed "Midnight Express" during his playing days, Mkhalele guided a youthful Bafana Bafana side to victory with inspired substitutions to clinch a morale-boosting win.
The 51-year-old thanked the fans for their support shown to his side in what was a rewarding end to a challenging week.
"I can't find enough words to say thank you," a grateful Mkhalele said post-match. "I would like to thank the entire nation for believing in the team.
"We could sense that they believed in the team before we walked out onto the pitch.
"I'd also like to thank the head coach Hugo Broos and coach Cedo (Cedomir Janevski) who we unfortunately know couldn't be with us.
"We had a technical plan that we made sure to follow but during the first-half we really struggled.
"I'd attribute that to the lack of experience shown by our boys and nerves and more importantly we had almost no time to ensure that we built combinations before the game.
"We had just two training sessions and almost all eleven players who never before played together.
"So I believe in the first-half that contributed to us not being able to manage the game effectively."
Mkhalele revealed that work behind the scenes in adapting the players' mindsets and attitude towards representing the Bafana Bafana jersey proved pivotal in their comeback victory.
"Once the boys start to understand our philosophy I believe that we're going to build a very strong team that is competitive not only in African football but even in world football.
"South Africa has the talent we've seen that, but the type of attitude that these boys displayed was key and we'll make sure that we try to work on the mental part.
"That is what we basically worked on during this camp, working more in making the players believe in themselves and to fight for the jersey.
"To wear that Bafana Bafana shirt which is the emblem of the country it means you are filled with that kind of passion where you would need to want to go out there and die on the pitch.
"That is what they demonstrated during the second half and is why I'm so proud of them."
Bafana Bafana get their Group G World Cup qualifying campaign underway away to Zimbabwe at the beginning of September.