Johannesburg - Bafana Bafana will be in the right frame of mind when they host Niger in a crunch 2012 African Nations Cup qualifier at Nelspruit’s Mbombela Stadium on Saturday night.
Kick-off is at 20:30.
That was the assurance from veteran Russian based midfield hardman Macbeth Sibaya on Tuesday. "We learnt a tough lesson from the previous Afcon qualifying campaign (2010) where we failed to qualify for the tournament in Angola in January this year. We will not make the same mistakes by taking smaller so called less glamorous countries like Niger for granted," the Ruben Kazan star said.
Sibaya said that it was important for Bafana to stamp their authority on the match and get the qualifying campaign off to a winning start.
"We have to win and score goals as well because goal difference could be important at the end of the campaign. We do not know what is down this road."
Sibaya was diplomatic when as asked why Bafana failed in the 2010 Afcon qualifier campaign where Bafana came up against powerhouse Nigeria, minnows Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea.
"We had a new coach in Joel Santana and in the beginning there was a language difficulty. But once we got used to him and started to understand him we were already struggling to qualify. This time round we have Pitso (Mosimane) who has a good track record with Bafana and there is no language barrier. We aim to make up for lost time."
Santana failed to master English in his 17 months disastrous months in charge. He could not communicate with the local media and heaven knows how he managed to motivate his players speaking in Portuguese.
Santana was axed last October and replaced by Carlos Alberto Parreira who managed to steady the sinking ship and lead Bafana to a reasonably successful World Cup where Bafana drew with Mexico and defeated 1998 world champions France.
The 32-year-old star said he was happy to see new faces in the squad.
"When I joined Bafana I looked up to the likes of Lucas Radebe and Benni McCarthy. I aim to help the younger players settle in and also show them the ropes and make it as easy as possible or them to play for the country," he said.
On his "old age" Sibaya said age is a number and added: "I knew that question would come up and I realise one day I will have to leave Bafana but while I am fit and enjoying my game I am determined to help Bafana to qualify for the 2012 Afcon tournament."
Ruben Kazan have been drawn along with Spanish champions Barcelona, FC Copenhagen and Panathinaikos in the European Champions League and Sibaya believes his Russian club ha realistic chance of reaching the next phase of the world’s greatest club competition.
"We all know Barcelona we have played then in the Champions League before but we can beat the likes of Copenhagen and Panathinaikos," he said.
One of the fresh faces in the Bafana set up is Moroka Swallows defender Keagan Richie. The 20-year-left back admitted he was star struck when he got his call up.
"I was nervous at first. Here I am with all my heroes. A month ago I was looking for their autographs now I am part of the set up. I aim to make sure I succeed and cement my place in the squad and prove the coach’s faith in me is justified," Richie said.
He added that Sibaya, skipper Aaron Mokena and Steven Pienaar were his idols and players who he looks up to and will look to for guidance.