Time to rise, Bafana! Afcon winner Shaun Bartlett wants SA’s big players to deliver

Bafana Bafana will take on continental powerhouses Nigeria on Wednesday for a place in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations

Bafana Bafana will take on continental powerhouses Nigeria on Wednesday for a place in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations. Photo: Fadel Senna/AFP

Published Feb 7, 2024


Besides Ronwen Williams’ ridiculous performance in the penalty shootout against Cape Verde in the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals, Bafana Bafana progression at Ivory Coast has been built in a team effort.

Coach Hugo Broos has instilled a new-found grit and a never-say-die attitude that has helped the team keep four clean sheets and and taking their chances when presented to them.

In the recent past, at Afcon, Bafana have wilted under pressure at Afcon, but they showed that they can compete with Africa’s best.

However, they are going to need more than just grit and desire to make the Sunday’s showpiece match when they take on Nigeria in Wednesday night’s semi-final.

Nigeria are a quality outfit with many players plying their trade in some of the world’s best leagues. They play with aggression and poise, and will test Bafana with their physicality.

It’s why former Bafana Bafana striker Shaun Bartlett believes Broos’ team need to show that extra quality to get them over the line, especially from their key players in attack.

Bartlett, who top scored with five goals in the 2000 Afcon, where Bafana lost to Nigeria in the semi-final, is hoping the likes of forward Percy Tau and veteran midfielder Themba Zwane can lead by example against the Super Eagles.

“The evergreen Zwane, at the age of 34 to still compete at the highest level is great for Bafana Bafana,” said Bartlett, who competed in a closest to the pin competition at the Bains Cape Town Open event in Wellington on Tuesday.

“These are the types of games you hope you big players can stand up and show their worth. Zwane and Percy Tau are very good players who can change a game and need deliver in this match.”

Bartlett is well aware of the physical threat Nigeria poses. Bafana’s only defeat in Ivory Coast came against Mali when they were basically bullied off the ball in the second half.

But South Africa have their own qualities, with their movement and slick passing one way of moving their bigger opposition around the park and creating their own chances to score.

“If you look at the current squad, you have to utilise the strengths of the players, which is obviously speed, skill and agility,” said Bartlett.

“We also have to be clinical in the final third, I think that is important.

“We’ve worked really well defensively, We have shown in the last four games, the team has kept four clean sheets. But we need to give us more opportunities to score goals.”


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