Pienaar praises fan support
Steven Pienaar (Gallo Images)
Rustenburg - The South African soccer team's support at home has improved significantly since the country hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup, midfield star Steven Pienaar said on Tuesday.
Bafana Bafana face Kenya in an international friendly at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium outside Rustenburg on Wednesday, and Pienaar said they looked forward to some solid support.
"We always look forward to playing at home, especially after the World Cup," said Pienaar.
"We have had the supporters behind us and the team has been playing well.
"It's totally different from the way it was a few years ago."
The hosts, ranked 47th in the world, were initially expected to face Burkina Faso, ranked 41st, but the SA Football Association (SAFA) did not secure the match with a signed contract and the West African nation pulled out at the last minute.
While they will be favoured to beat the Kenyans, ranked 127th, Pienaar said Bafana expected a challenge if the visitors arrived on top form and both sides were willing to push forward and take risks.
"They have come here to play, and if they open up the game, it should be a good match," said Pienaar, who signed with English Premiership side Tottenham Hotspurs last month after a move from Everton.
"It'll be up to us to be patient and make sure we also open the game up."
SAFA has faced a barrage of criticism on the eve of the match - Bafana's first since going down 1-0 to the United States in Cape Town in November.
Apart from SAFA's bungling of the friendly fixture, which it admitted only last week, a day after CEO Leslie Sedibe stepped down, it also failed to register the national under-23 team for this year's All Africa Games qualifiers, eventually receiving a late entry after Namibia withdrew.
Pienaar said Bafana would not allow influences outside the team to affect their performance.
"Every game we play, we want to win," he said.
"It's up to us to go into the game with our heads clear and enjoy ourselves."
It will be South Africa's last match before they face Egypt in an African Cup of Nations qualifier at FNB Stadium at the end of March.
With only one game to prove their worth, the lone new cap, Bidvest Wits midfielder Sifiso Myeni, and a handful of recalled players will have their work cut out to earn their places.
Myeni, 22, said he would grab his chance and run with it if he was asked to take the field.
"It's not easy to get a call-up," he said.
"There are a lot of guys playing well and challenging for places, so I will take full advantage of my opportunity."