Durban - Whoever fills Senzo Meyiwa’s position in Durban on Saturday afternoon will have to put the former Bafana Bafana captain and goalkeeper’s death in the past, and focus fully on beating Sudan in the penultimate 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
This was the message from coach Shakes Mashaba at Thursday’s media conference in Durban, ahead of the country’s first game since Meyiwa died three weeks ago.
“We’ve got to march on. We indicated to the three goalkeepers, whoever comes on, the Senzo incident is gone now,” Mashaba said.
“All these players are looking to make a mark in that position. Most of these things are psychological. It’s not easy to tap into a person’s mind and find out exactly how they feel.
"We can only hope, all of us, that each player's mind is right.”
Meyiwa was shot dead in Vosloorus, Ekurhuleni, while visiting his girlfriend singer and actress Kelly Khumalo. Two men entered the house demanding cellphones and shot him before fleeing.
Despite being desperate to put Meyiwa’s death aside in an attempt to give Sudan the proper respect and preparation they deserve, questions continued to surround two key issues: who will wear the captain's armband and who will replace Meyiwa between the posts?
“We’re still checking the players. It’s not going to be an easy thing to decide and I know a lot of people are basing it on the senior players,” Mashaba said.
“We’ve got one or two names. We’ll just go through our criteria, go through who is fit and then announce it, but we have names in mind.”
With eight points from their opening four qualifiers, a win will seal Bafana's place at next year's tournament -- which currently has no host -- while a draw would force Mashaba's troops to get a result in Nigeria next week, a daunting prospect.
South Africa’s fate, therefore, remains firmly in their own hands in a qualifying group which Bafana have dominated since their first match against Sudan, in Khartoum, back in September.
“We have to go out and make it and that is pressure on its own, but everyone wants to win this game and make our lives easier.”
Looking at the Moses Mabhida pitch, at a stadium the coach had never visited before, Mashaba warned of slippery conditions, but was confident a few tweaks to the surface would make the iconic 2010 World Cup arena a dream to play on.
“I discussed it with the groundsman because the grass is about 24 centimetres long. They’ll have to cut it down to about 22 or 20 centimetres. The surface needs to be a little bit harder.
“It’s going to be a skidding pitch, it won’t hold.”
There was good news for Mashaba on the injury front as medical staff gave the whole team a clean bill of health following concerns over Mandla Masango and Thulani Serero, who arrived in camp nursing slight niggles.
Earlier this week, Mashaba lost May Mahlangu and Sibusiso Vilakazi, prompting a move to call up Free State Stars striker Moeketsi Sekola.
Sekola has been in stunning form in the Premiership so far, having bagged six goals and heading the scorers’ list, along with Puleng Tlolane of Polokwane City.
“We wanted to bring in an extra two players but we've only brought one,” Mashaba said of the 25-year-old.
“We’ve got five strikers in the team now which will help us. What we need to guard against is the question of injuries.”