South African sports fans should not make the mistake of looking at the recent achievements of the Springbok team and expect Bafana Bafana to replicate the exploits of the Boks.
Bafana Bafana, under the leadership of their 17th coach in 20 years – Molefi Ntseki – can learn a multitude of lessons from their rugby counterparts.
Under Rassie Erasmus, the Springboks won Rugby World Cup 2019 after a slump that saw them experience their worst season ever. Yet they still got it together and conquered RWC 2019 and hearts and minds everywhere.
As it is, nobody expects Bafana Bafana to do such a thing. Africa? Maybe. Possibly. We’re not there, however. Not yet anyway.
So, what can Bafana learn from the Boks? For a start, they can adopt the mentality that the Boks had heading into the RWC 2019. Which was to play for a cause bigger than themselves.
The Springboks went in as underdogs, with the likes of New Zealand, Ireland, Wales and England starting as pre-tournament favourites.
Heading into the 2019 edition, the Boks had a different mentality.
The players believed they could win the World Cup; they wouldn’t be professionals if they believed anything else. But the driving force behind their campaign was the goal of bringing hope to the 56 million South Africans who watched their exploits in Japan from lounges, taverns and clubs across the country.
Speaking after the team had booked their place in the World Cup final, Springbok captain Siya Kolisi said: “The coach had a plan and we had to buy into his plan. And he made it clear that the Springboks are the most important thing.”
Ntseki too has a plan. Bafana will need to find a similar glue, a common goal that will bind them together.
And Ntseki is the perfect candidate at this point to forge this common goal. Just as his counterpart Erasmus is a scholar of rugby, Ntseki is a scholar of football.
He has worked throughout the South African Football Association’s (Safa) ranks, clawing his way up to the hot seat he currently occupies.
This is why, despite not being a household name, Ntseki seems to command the respect of Bafana’s superstars. As evidenced when Bafana scored against Mali in an entertaining Nelson Mandela Challenge game a month ago. In that game, where South Africa were 2-1 victors, Ntseki and the players celebrated each goal together. The seed of unity was planted.
“We’ve told our players we have a plan. Having a plan means we have to achieve something,” Ntseki told the media this week.
“We can’t always be referring back to what happened in the past. If Tyson [Thulani Hlatshwayo] has to retire in the next two years, or Dean Furman has to retire, they should do so saying, ‘I have achieved’’’ added Ntseki as he cautioned against dwelling on their escapades in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) a few months ago.
The fact that reaching the quarter-finals of Afcon in Egypt is still topical four months later shows how starved of success Bafana Bafana are. And Ntseki is hungry too. As are South Africans who love Bafana Bafana.
Of course, it will not be an easy journey. Especially when it starts with Bafana facing the Black Stars of Ghana, away from home.
Ghana have qualified for 14 of the last 15 Afcon finals‚ missing out only at Tunisia 2004‚ as well as making the semi-finals – at least – in each of the six tournaments that preceded the 2019 edition.
It must be noted, however, that the current crop of Black Stars faded. So, Bafana have a chance of coming back home with maximum points, to take command of a group C which includes Sudan and São Tomé and Príncipe.
When they come back from Ghana, they will face Sudan at the Orlando Stadium on Sunday afternoon. In that game, South Africa will be looking to grab the three points and run, but it will not be easy.
The match against Ghana will not be broadcast to South African audiences after SuperSport announced that it could not secure the rights to the game. The game against Sudan, however, will be broadcast on SABC 1.
Source: Yanga Sibembe