Shakes Mashaba’s side must do what no Bafana team has managed to do since Carlos Queiroz’ side 15 years ago, if they are to qualify for a World Cup finals.
Queiroz, of course, was forced out of the national team hot-seat just ahead of Japan/South Korea 2002, a ridiculous set of circumstances even by the remarkably low standards set by the South African Football Association.
Shakes Mashaba has kept his job, for now, ahead of the road to Russia 2018, despite failing to qualify the team for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, and despite the side getting a public ear-bashing from Safa president Danny Jordaan.
Defeat in Ouagadougou against Burkina Faso on Saturday and no doubt the knives will sharpen again, with failure to win at home to Senegal in November almost certain to seal the fall of the guillotine. To my mind, and I have said it before, it makes very little difference who coaches Bafana, I am just not sure the side is good enough.
There are no stars of South African football at the moment to match the talent of a player like Burkina Faso’s Bertrand Traore or Senegal’s Sadio Mane.
Traore is a regular in the Ajax Amsterdam side while our own Thulani Serero lurches in the reserves. Mane is a regular at Liverpool while our own Tokelo Rantie was deemed surplus to requirements at Bournemouth.
People will call me negative, but I am just trying to be realistic, we need to lower our expectations. I hope to be proved wrong, of course, and Herve Renard’s Zambia, for example, did prove at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations finals that miracles do happen.
Shakes Mashaba can also call on the memories of Afcon 2015 qualifying, where South Africa did finish above Nigeria to qualify for Equatorial Guinea. Yet in over 15 years covering the game in this country I have learned to expect the worst when it comes to Bafana. I will be genuinely stunned if they come close to topping this group, and making it to the World Cup finals.
We preview the game against Burkina Faso opposite and on Page 10.
I was stunned, meanwhile, not by the fact that Bidvest Wits won the MTN8 on Saturday, but by the margin of victory over Mamelodi Sundowns. Gavin Hunt finally has a trophy to show for his efforts at Wits and this victory, particularly in the manner it was achieved, is another indicator that this Clever Boys side can challenge all the way for the league title this season.
Daine Klate was outstanding again, adding another winner’s medal to what must be a crammed display cabinet at home. Klate’s lack of Bafana Bafana caps, in what has certainly not been a golden era for the game in this country, is utterly baffling.
We have the Wits and Sundowns reaction to that MTN8 final on the back page, and I hope Sundowns can now lift themselves for the Caf Champions League final against Zamalek. If they can win that, this defeat will quickly be forgotten at Choorklop.
We also speak to Hlompho Kekana about the Champions League – the Brazilians captain has had an amazing year for club and country. Hopefully before the Champions League, Kekana can score one of his firecrackers in Ouagadougou and shut this naysayer up.