As Nigeria slip again, Bafana coach Broos warns of poor pitch in Rwanda
Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos has questioned the venue of Butare and the synthetic pitch he says is in poor condition at the tiny, 10,000-seat Stade Huye that will host Rwanda’s 2026 World Cup qualifier against the South Africans on Tuesday.
Nigeria’s huge slip-up starting group C with a shock 1-1 draw at home against tiny Lesotho, and then being held to the same scoreline away against Zimbabwe on Sunday, has opened a path for Bafana to the World Cup.
But there is a long way to go and Rwanda, looking to bounce back from their opening draw (0-0) at home to Zimbabwe, will also be looking to mount an assault on the first-place finish that guarantees teams a place in the first 48-team World Cup in Mexico, Canada and the US.
Bafana, who top group C after their 2-1 opening win against Benin in Durban on Saturday, should at least, surprisingly, not have overbearing heat to deal with. Cloudy conditions and temperatures of 23°C are predicted on Tuesday in Butare, about 300km south of the equator, for the 3pm kickoff.
Broos’ concern is mostly a synthetic pitch he says is more than 20 years old. He also questioned why the match had to be staged in Rwanda’s fifth-largest town, a three-hour bus ride from Kigali.
Bafana’s flight touched down in the capital city at about 9pm on Sunday and they arrived in Butare at 1.35am on Monday morning.
“It was not an easy trip, like always in Africa,” Broos said. “And, yes, I’m wondering why we have to play in Butare.
“Second, when I saw the footage of Rwanda’s games against Zimbabwe and also in their Afcon [Africa Cup of Nations] qualifiers, I saw a bad pitch.”
Broos will have to juggle injuries, fatigue and players he believes are up to turning out in back-to-back games in such conditions in his team selection.
“Now, with the group we have, it’s not such a problem. The guys are showing me what they want, which is to go to the World Cup and go far in the Afcon.
“I also think the players have grown in these kinds of situations. I know we will be ready for the game.
“On the other side, on such a pitch anything can happen. This is something I hope will not happen tomorrow [Tuesday] and that the game will be decided — if it’s decided — by something more regular.”
The coach said the variable bounce on the pitch will make it difficult to play on.
“There’s nothing wrong with a synthetic pitch — we played on one in Liberia [in Bafana’s 2-1 Afcon qualifying win in March] that was fantastic.
“That was a new generation synthetic pitch. But here it’s a synthetic pitch that is maybe 20 or 25 years old, very bad condition. It’s like you play on the street.
“It’s hard, there are many [types of] bounces of the ball. So it’s difficult to play good football and it will be a game of fighting football tomorrow.”
The conditions will inform Broos’ starting XI. “We need 11 warriors on the pitch. We don’t have to think about nice football.
“Mothobi Mvala went out injured [against Benin], I don’t know if he will be ready for tomorrow. [Maphosa] Modiba was complaining about his knee before the Benin game but he could play.
“[Evidence] Makgopa also went out against Benin — I think he will be ready for tomorrow.”
The coach said he would examine players’ fitness in Bafana’s last training session on Monday afternoon.