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AFL experience will help Bafana in World Cup bid

Benin to put Bafana to test in opening qualifier

Sihle Ndebele Journalist
Bafana Bafana players during the team's training session and press conference at TUKS High Performance Centre on Monday
Bafana Bafana players during the team's training session and press conference at TUKS High Performance Centre on Monday
Image: Gallo Images/Lefty Shivambu

Bafana Bafana skipper Ronwen Williams has suggested the experience they, as Mamelodi Sundowns players alongside his deputy Percy Tau of Al Ahly, gained in the recent African Football League (AFL) will help Mzansi a great deal in the World Cup qualifiers.

The inaugural AFL was eventually clinched by Sundowns last Sunday after beating one of the giants of the continent, Wydad Casablanca of Morocco, 3-2 on aggregate, having outshone Tau’s Al Ahly’s 1-0 on aggregate in the semifinals. Bafana get their World Cup qualifiers campaign under way by welcoming Benin at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday (3pm).

“Obviously we learnt so much playing AFL. It’s very tough playing every three or four days... you need to be mentally prepared, especially with the long travelling, so it’s just experiences that we’ve gained over the last few months, alongside Percy as well,” Williams said.

“We share our experiences as we’ll be facing a similar challenge when we play home and away, so it’s just for us to make sure that we recover well like the coach said.”

Following the withdrawal of Grant Kekana and Thapelo Maseko due to injuries, Sundowns now boast six players in the squad; namely Williams, Mothobi Mvala, Aubrey Modiba, Khuliso Mudau, Teboho Mokoena and Themba Zwane.

Apart from Benin, Bafana’s other Group C opponents are Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Lesotho. SA’s next face Rwanda away on Tuesday (3pm SA time).

Like his coach Hugo Broos has bemoaned that the Sundowns contingent arrived fatigued on the back of a hectic fixture programme, Williams also emphasised the importance of recovery. The Bafana skipper, however, didn’t want to make a big deal out of fatigue, saying they are paid to play football, hence they mustn’t complain.

“Recovery is going to be key because we’ve played so many games. We also have to remain hungry... this is our job at the end of the day and we don’t have to look for any excuses. Each and everyone gets tired but you get paid to do this job, so it’s just to be mentally focused,” Williams said.

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