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Bafana Bafana Debrief – Where Are We At?

Bafana Bafana Debrief – Where Are We At? After two wins against the 182 ranked Sao Tome, we discuss the good, the bad and ugly.

South Africa Bafana Bafana Sao Tome

Bafana Bafana moved to nine points in Group C of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, following back-to-back victories over Sao Tome and Principe.

They were important wins for Molefi Ntseki and his team, who are still in the race to top the group they are battling in with current leaders Ghana, Sao Tome, and Sudan.


But while the six points were the priority, the performances in the victories left many disappointed, especially when considering Sao Tome are ranked 182nd in the world.

First of all let’s look back at the first game, played at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Friday the 13th.

South Africa 2-0 Sao Tome and Principe

(55′ Percy Tau PEN, 90′ Bongani Zungu)

Bafana XI: Ronwen Williams, Innocent Maela, Thapelo Morena, Mosa Lebusa, Thulani Hlatshwayo, Dean Furman, Kamohelo Mokotjo, Percy Tau, Themba Zwane, Keagan Dolly, Lebohang Manyama

It wasn’t the most convincing win, but Bafana walked away 2-0 victors. To be fair, it wasn’t like it was an equal contest, Bafana dominated the game, but for much of the 90 minutes, it was a disjointed performance. The rhythm of the team seemed a bit off, and there were a lot of misplaced passes and lost possession, which gave Sao Tome a few opportunities.


In fairness, Ronwen Williams wasn’t really tested in the game. The Supersport United captain did everything that was asked from him on the day. He is now beginning to cement his spot as first choice keeper in the country.

The Bafana defence was only really tested on the counter-attack. While it was a solid performance from the centre back pair of captain Thulani Hlatshwayo and Mosa Lebusa, there were times when fullbacks Innocent Maela and Thapelo Morena were caught out of position.


In central midfield, Dean Furman and Kamohelo Mokotjo didn’t do much wrong, but I have always felt that they both should be competing for one spot in the team. While their style of play is quite different, they both fulfil a similar role and don’t necessarily complement each other. There was a noticeable improvement in the flow of the game when Bongani Zungu replaced Mokotjo in the second half. In his time on the field, Zungu showed he should be starting.


The attacking midfield combination of Themba Zwane, Keagan Dolly and Percy Tau didn’t quite get going in the first half. But they did show signs of what they can do in the second 45. Once Bafana were in the lead, their confidence climbed and they caused a few problems for the Sao Tome defence.

Tau, as he does in every game, kept their defenders on their toes, and showed once again why he is currently South Africa’s most high profile footballer.

While I am a fan of Lebo Manyama, I don’t think the experiment of using him as the central striker worked in this game. Unfortunately with Kermit Erasmus and Bradley Grobler out injured, Ntseki only had a few options upfront. I think he had hoped to test Manyama in the role in last month’s friendlies, but unfortunately on that occasion, it was Manyama who was injured.

I can see what Ntseki wants to do. Manyama can hold up the ball well and has all the attributes to play a striker’s role, but his form hasn’t been ideal in the past few months. He’s also had a few niggling injuries hampering any progression. While it might not please all the fans, I think Ntseki might persist with Lebo in this role, at least for the time being.

Had Bafana played just slightly better, this could have been win by four or five goals. But in the end, only scoring two goals was a little disappointing and overall, it was probably about a six out 10 winning performance.

On to Port Elizabeth and the Nelson Mandela Stadium… While technically this was an away game, Sao Tome elected to play this game in South Africa. Covid-19 has created unusual circumstances in football, and with just three days between the games, it probably made sense to avoid the travel, quarantine, etc, but it certainly gave South Africa a big advantage in these ties.

Sao Tome and Principe 2-4 South Africa

(Sousa Pontes ’12; Themba Zwane ’39; Percy Tau ’69; Harramiz Soares ’75; Zwane ’86; Tau ’88)

Bafana XI: Ronwen Williams, Lyle Lakay, Thapelo Morena, Mosa Lebusa, Thulani Hlatshwayo, Dean Furman, Bongani Zungu, Percy Tau, Themba Zwane, Keagan Dolly, Lebohang Manyama

Ntseki made two changes for the second game, bringing in Lyle Lakay for the injured Innocent Maela, while Bongani Zungu replaced Kamohelo Mokotjo.

Lack of Rhythm

Unfortunately, it looked like more of the same from Bafana in the first half as they failed to get any rhythm going, and to make matters worse they conceded an early goal as Sao Tome scored from a corner to take a surprising lead.

Just before halftime Bafana were back level through Themba Zwane, with what was the first shot on target for the South Africans. While once again Bafana controlled most of the possession and did most of the attacking, the team seemed out of sync for most of the opening stanza.


Ronwen Williams was steady again in goal, and couldn’t be blamed for either goal conceded. In fact, defensively South Africa didn’t do much wrong. Although they would’ve been disappointed to concede at a set piece where the goalscorer was able to get in front of Bongani Zungu. The second goal was more concerning, as this time the goalscorer was unmarked in the box. Lyle Lakay put in a good shift in his first international in five years (and technically his first for the ‘first’ team, with those previous appearances having come in CHAN qualifiers). Lakay and Thapelo Morena also put in some good crosses when going forward.


While the midfield looked more balanced, it was still not a flowing performance, and at times they found themselves losing the physical battle against their bigger opponents. But Dean Furman and Bongani Zungu put in good shifts and will be satisfied with their efforts. It was a very quiet performance from Keagan Dolly, and even Percy Tau seemed somewhat more subdued until he scored his goals. Themba Zwane proved to be the match-winner though, being in the right place at the right time and showed his composure to get his brace. His goals swung the momentum back into South Africa’s favour on both occasions.


Up front Manyama still looked to be finding his form, but it was an improved performance from Friday, and he was unlucky not to have scored early in the second half when his attempt hit the upright. He had a few half chances and put himself in some good positions. But in fairness Bafana played better when he was replaced late in the second half by the more mobile Kermit Erasmus. The tactic in play then suited the team more, and I’ve always thought that while it is a nice to have a man to aim for upfront, South African teams tend to play better when there is no target man on the field, so they don’t even have the option to play that option.

While there was some improvements from Friday night, it still felt like a six out of 10 performance for most of the game, and Bafana could have put this to bed a lot earlier with stronger individual performances. Fortunately, Tau and Zwane put their hands up late in the game to save any embarrassment.


While getting the positive results was key and the main objective for these games, Ntseki will also now know that if they want to compete at the Afcon Finals, there is a lot of work still to do.

Certain combinations still need a lot of work, if they are going to continue utilising them, and there are definitely areas that need strengthening. But the foundation is there, and it is now a chance to build on it.
Bafana will only be in action again in March when they play Ghana and Sudan in the final two group games. they will need to get at least one positive result to ensure their qualification.

A lot can happen between now and March.

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