PORT ELIZABETH – With the Premier Soccer League on pause because of the Fifa break, Bafana Bafana will take centre stage this weekend as they host Mali in the Nelson Mandela Challenge at Nelson Mandela Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Sunday (3.30pm kick-off).
Here we look at five reasons why it is important for Bafana to reign supreme on Sunday.
Defend their unbeaten run in the NMC
Bafana are on a six-year unbeaten streak in the Mandela Cup and they will be out to keep that record intact.
The likes of Ivory Coast, Egypt, Senegal and Paraguay have all failed to dethrone Bafana.
The last time they suffered defeat was back in 2013 against Nigeria at the iconic Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.
Gain confidence ahead of Afcon qualifier against clash with Ghana next month
Bafana will begin their journey towards booking their ticket to Cameroon in 2021 for the Africa Cup of Nations next month against Ghana and Sudan.
The two countries are no pushovers and the game against Mali will provide a stern test for Bafana. A win will be huge for Bafana as they will head in to their clash with Ghana oozing with confidence.
So, it is clear that the victory is imperative for Bafana.
Ntseki’s chance to prove his doubters wrong
Obviously the appointment of coach Molefi Ntseki caught the masses by surprise in the football fraternity in South Africa and on the continent but Ntseki is not new to international football.
He has been around. The Free State-born tactician served as an assistant coach under Stuart Baxter, while he also propelled the South African Under-17 team to the World Cup.
In 2009, he was an assistant coach to Serame Letsoaka when the Under-20 national team reached the last 16 at the World Cup in Egypt.
Despite all this experience, some supporters cast their doubts on his appointment. Getting a victory will help him settle and gain confidence from his doubters.
— Bafana Bafana (@BafanaBafana) October 10, 2019
Test the depth in the squad
With a number of key players injured, Bafana’s depth will be tested.
Sifiso Hlanti and Thamsanqa Mkhize missed out on the squad to face Mali because of injuries. Their absence will present an opportunity for Ntseki to test Thapelo Morena and Innocent Maela.
Bongani Zungu was also withdrawn from the squad after suffering a deep laceration to his left leg. He is another prominent figure in the Bafana set-up but his unavailability will give the likes of Thulani Serero a chance to stake his claim.
Continue their dominance at home
Bafana finished the Afcon qualifiers unbeaten.
They have proven to be a force to be reckoned with in their own territory. Bafana showed that against the likes of Nigeria, Seychelles, Paraguay and Egypt in the past two years.
They will be looking to keep that going when they square off against Mali on Sunday.