Afcon fiasco haunts SA
SOUTH Africa return to the scene of their great humiliation tonight when they take on Gabon in an international friendly at the Mbombela Stadium.
It is the venue where the side danced in celebration, believing they had qualified for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations finals after playing to a 0-0 draw against Sierra Leone, only to find out minutes later that they had misread the rules and Niger would head to the finals instead.
It remains possibly the side's lowest point since South Africa's readmission to international football 20 years ago, and has scarred this generation of players who, it could be argued, have yet to recover.
The side have won none of their six matches since then, a run which ultimately led to the axing of coach Pitso Mosimane, who was a "dead man walking" from that day on, always just one poor competitive result away from the sack.
It is ironic that Mbombela was viewed as something of a lucky venue for Bafana before their Sierra Leone disaster.
Their first match at the newly built 2010 Fifa World Cup host stadium saw them defeat Thailand 4-0, at the time the joint biggest win in the country's history before they bettered that record with a 5-0 victory over Guatemala just a few weeks later.
The team then recorded a 2-0 victory over Niger in their opening 2012 Nations Cup qualifier in September 2010, giving them a 100 percent record at the stadium going into the Sierra Leone fixture.
And so this venue will now forever be etched in the memories of Bafana supporters as one of disappointment. Victory over Gabon tonight, a first for the side in nine matches, would at least go some way to easing their pain.
May Mahlangu is expected to spearhead the hosts' attack.
Kickoff is at 8pm.