Big test for Komphela - no pushovers
BAFANA Bafana slipped into enemy territory late yesterday to set up base ahead of their 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifier against Botswana tomorrow.
The battle is set for 7 000-seat University of Botswana Stadium and kickoff is at 3pm.
Unsure of what to expect, the national team face their sternest test of character yet as they arrive with their back pinned to the wall, following their terrible start to their World Cup qualifier against Ethiopia at home on Sunday.
With a new general, Steve Komphela, Bafana go into the match with a simple mission - to collect maximum points and restore faith in a doubtful World Cup campaign.
The gloom which has fallen over the team following their 1-all draw against lowly-ranked Ethiopia in their opening qualifier will need a massive boost to lift.
This is the moment which could define the character of the team and its ability to compete on bigger international stages.
Failure to win away to Botswana - the Zebras could no longer be dismissed as minnows, seeing Bafana's continued spiral from orbit - would put Bafana's World Cup qualification chances in serious doubt, much worse than the crisis currently gripping the police services.
"We need to release the burden of the past so that we can travel lighter," said caretaker coach Komphela, who arrived here with his full squad, except for left-back Tsepo Masilela.
There hasn't been a replacement for Masilela, who limped off against Ethiopia in Rustenburg as Komphela seemingly restored faith in Punch Masenamela.
The Mamelodi Sundowns defender picked up the man-of-match award, despite coming on for injured Masilela in the last game.
Pressure remains, particularly on the senior players, who didn't really cover themselves in glory against Ethiopia.
Now it's left to the likes of skipper Steven Pienaar, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Siyabonga Nomvethe and Bongani Khumalo to raise their hands tomorrow.
Assistant captain Tshabalala has admitted they undermined the Black Lions, only to get the "shock of their lives".
Komphela, too, knows what winning could mean for his Bafana career, as Safa begins a search for Mosimane's replacement.
"We have to win against Botswana and get the campaign back on track," said Komphela.
Botswana, however, are not a task beyond Bafana's ability, and this clash is by no means a war of attrition.
The Zebras come into the game smarting from a 2-0 loss against Central African Republic, and at home they will be under pressure to prevail.
"South Africa is a good team with great players, but we are capable of coping with the threat," said defender Ndiyapo Letsholathebe.
"There won't be a repeat of the mistakes which consigned us to the bottom of Group A."