Port Elizabeth - Bafana Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane asked fans to lay off striker Katlego Mphela after the Mamelodi Sundowns goal poacher was jeered in their 1-1 draw against Ivory Coast in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
Mphela scored the equaliser in the second half in an entertaining Nelson Mandela Challenge clash after the Ivorians took a halftime lead courtesy of a Siboniso Gaxa own-goal.
The striker had received the same treatment against Egypt at Ellis Park in March when he also went on to score a late goal that gave Bafana their first competitive victory over the Pharaohs.
"I was pleading with them and pleading South Africa to give Mphela a break," Mosimane said.
"At the end of the day, who scores?"
Mosimane was seen remonstrating with the fans behind the bench after Mphela, nicknamed "Killer", netted with a trademark free kick against the Ivorian Elephants.
"I had to call him [Mphela] to the sidelines and say to him, 'the only way to reply back to them is to score another goal'," Mosimane said.
"We will be criticised as Bafana, it's part of the game.
"People have the right to critise, so I take it positively, and hope he took it positively too."
Mosimane said he was confident of the team's chances as they prepared to host the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, as well as playing qualifiers for the 2014 FINA World Cup in Brazil.
He admitted, however, that Bafana were in need of another prolific forward.
"There is hope because we have a good team, and if there is another striker that can help us score goals when Mphela is not scoring, then give me that name and I'll put that name on the team sheet," Mosimane said.
"We are struggling with that and could have taken it [the victory] in the last 15 minutes.
"But it's the old story with Bafana that you all know - we build up well but don't take proper decisions in the last third of the field.
"We've showed that we can play the top teams in Africa.
"It's the only way we can prepare for the 2013 AFCON and the World Cup qualifiers in six months' time."
Later on Sunday, Bafana travel to Harare where they play Zimbabwe in their final international match of the year at Rufaro Stadium on Tuesday evening.
A number of senior players - captain Steven Pienaar, Kagisho Dikgacoi, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Siboniso Gaxa, Anele Ngcongca, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Tsepo Masilela and Siyabonga Sangweni - were not included in the travelling party.