Bafana’s Themba Zwane goes from outcast to Afcon midfield maestro

Bafana Bafana’s Themba Zwane celebrates one of his goals against Namibia at the Africa Cup of Nations. Picture: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Bafana Bafana’s Themba Zwane celebrates one of his goals against Namibia at the Africa Cup of Nations. Picture: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Published Jan 23, 2024


Bafana Bafana head coach Hugo Broos has heaped praise on midfielder star Themba Zwane after another impressive showing against Namibia at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations.

It is always said that things change quickly in the world of football and the turnaround in the relationship between Broos and Zwane has been testament to that, with the veteran player earning the coach’s respect.

Zwane scored a brace in Bafana Bafana’s 4-0 demotion of Namibia, showing his class with a top display..

“Mshishi”, as Zwane is known to those who adore him, was among the players who Broos deemed ‘not fit for his project’ when he arrived two years ago, given their age.

But now, at the age of 34, Zwane has become the heart and soul of Broos’ side, and proved it again by scoring a brace as Bafana thumped the Brave Warriors and taking home the player-of-the-match award.

The Mamelodi Sundowns man darted around the entire field in his usual ‘free role’ behind the striker and was a part of all that was good about Bafana on the night.

“Sometimes you have to fight for it and kick the ball and you need the players who run after the ball. And that was today the case with the maestro in the midfield, Themba,” said Broos.

“We know, and I said it already several times, when Themba plays well the team plays good.

“We saw it again (on Sunday), even if it was not really his football.

“Themba is the man with the combination but he knew where to go and we could always give the ball to him.

“If it wasn’t for him, over the two wings also, Percy (Tau) and Thapelo (Morena), the guys who went deep and that hurt the defence of Namibia.

“Again I’m very happy, not only about the result but also the way because this was not South African football.”

Broos also made two huge calls ahead of this match, as he dropped defender Siyanda Xulu as well as winger Thapelo Maseko for Grant Kekana and Morena.

“You know there’s not so much difference between Grant and Siyanda, the only difference is Grant is faster,” Broos said after the match.

“And we needed a fast player there with (Peter) Shalulile and their runners. Grant is faster and therefor, we changed it.

“Siyanda wasn’t bad (against Mali), but it was more of a tactical choice. Grant had a very good game.

“Thapelo is identical ... we needed depth in our game with (Morena) as he is very quick ... So the changes we made were tactical – and yes, okay, after 4-0 I can say it was good choices, but that’s not important.”

Bafana return to action tomorrow when they play Tunisia in the final matches of Group E.

The pool has been one of the most surprising groups so far after Namibia’s win over Tunisia threw a spanner in the works for all those that expected Mali and Tunisia to easily seal their passage to the round of 16.

Even after their near-perfect start, Mali are also at risk of finishing outside the top two if Bafana beat Tunisia and they somehow lose against Namibia.