Johannesburg - Bafana Bafana's performance will be critical to South Africa's hosting of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, local organising committee (LOC) chief executive Mvuso Mbebe said on Thursday.
The former SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) executive made his first address in his new position, where he outlined the committee's plans to host the tournament.
"Our drive is to make sure that the tournament is a success and the stadiums are full. The performance of Bafana is important, knowing what happened in 1996, where they did well."
South Africa were last-minute replacements for initial hosts Kenya in 1996, and ended up winning the trophy in an inaugural appearance since international re-admission to football in 1992.
The country will host next year's event along with the 2014 African Nations Champions (Chan), due to the withdrawal of politically troubled Libya.
The SA Football Association (SAFA) said it was trying to recapture the same excitement experienced 16 years ago.
However, the problem lies with Bafana, who have lingered well below some of their fellow African nations in the FIFA world rankings. If South Africans were to embrace both tournaments in the next two years, coach Pitso Mosimane's side would need to be competitive.
"A challenge is having a team that will compete," said SAFA president Kirsten Nematandani, speaking in his capacity as LOC chairperson.
"If a team plays at home then surely they should be competitive. If we pass the group stages and go to the final of the 2013 AFCON, it gives the chance to restore lost national pride."
Bafana failed to qualify for the 2010 AFCON tournament in Angola, as well as this year's showpiece in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. The team infamously misread the qualifying rules against Sierra Leone in their last qualifier game in October. Zambia went on to win the tournament.
This has now put pressure on South Africa, with its better infrastructure, to avoid an embarrassment next year, bearing in mind that Bafana became the first World Cup hosts to be eliminated in the group stages in 2010.
The 2013 AFCON will take place between January and February next year with venues and dates set to be confirmed in the first week of April.
According to Mbebe, 36 venues had shown interest in hosting the continental showpiece, and the 2014 African Nations Championship tournament.
The interested venues will make presentations to Safa next Friday, with the signing of agreements set to be done on March 31.
The Confederations of African Football (CAF) prefers a minimum of four venues, but the LOC plans on using up to seven next year.
"The criteria of the final host cities is going to be rigorous but fair. We don't have the luxury of time," Mbebe said.
"Some of the issues we will look at are matters of cost, legacy benefits, accessibility and ability to attract spectators to events. But we are conscious of the economy of the country because AFCON is after Christmas, and in a period where most parents are sending children back to school."
The final draw for the AFCON will be held in September or October this year.