THE South African sport fraternity is in need of some cheering up right now.
If it’s not the Proteas choking at the Cricket World Cup and the bumbling quasi-Bafana Bafana in Cosafa Cup, it is Amajita faltering in the U-20 World Cup.
A shaft of gloom glowers around the national teams and indications are that Banyana Banyana might not be safe bets for victory at the Fifa Women’s World Cup.
It is becoming an all too common feature, watching SA’s teams disappoint when it matters. But Thulani Hlatshwayo reckons Stuart Baxter’s Bafana team can provide the remedy with success at the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals in Egypt.
“When we came from Libya (Afcon qualifier) the coach said he wasn’t given any mandate (for the upcoming tournament). It is for us to find our identity,” explained Hlatshwayo.
“But if you look at the experience and the quality in the team, I think it is high time we won. We are not in the team to learn, but to make sure we get out of the group stages and take it from there.
“Everyone is here and is motivated. We know what the stake is for us as a country. We’ve done well in the qualifiers and we can look back at the game against Libya and draw inspiration from it, knowing the group (D) we are in.”
The Bafana skipper joined his teammates in a morning training session as Baxter took his charges through their first workout at the plush Steyn City residence, north of Joburg.
He hailed the prevailing air of optimism in camp, adding they were fully aware of the pressure they face in the tournament.
“The first camp has started well. Yes, we’ve seen the Cosafa Cup results, the cricket team and Banyana Banyana (7-2 loss Norway) results at the weekend.
“It does raise the stakes for us and we will make sure we are well-prepared for later this month. There is always pressure.”
With 38 international caps to his name, Hlatshwayo has been a regular since his international debut six years ago.
But this also means he was part of the underachieving teams in two World Cup qualifier campaigns, and in the 2015 Afcon finals.
“It’s never easy bouncing back from a disappointment. Yet it’s not about how hard you fall. It is how you get back up. They say you are as good as your last game. You just go back and fix the mistakes and make sure you do the things right.”