Pressure is on Bafana
Johannesburg - Bafana Bafana need to restore their continental pride by qualifying for the 2012 African Nations Cup finals to be staged in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
And the pressure is on as Bafana take their first step to redemption after failing to reach the finals of the 2010 tournament held in Angola, when they host Niger in their opening 2012 Nations Cup qualifier at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Saturday night.
Kick-off is at 20:30.
Bafana are starting to feel the heat knowing they need a good win against the unknown west African minnows to kick-start their qualifying campaign in a tough group that includes defending African champions Egypt and Sierra Leone.
One player who is determined to make sure Bafana will got off to a good start, is Israel based left back Tsepo Masilela. “This is a big, big game for us. We need to regain our pride in Africa.
"We did well at the World Cup but now we need to get back on track and make sure we qualify for the 2012 Afcon finals.
“We have to stand up and be counted in this one. This is not a friendly like Ghana. It was good to beat Ghana recently (1-0 at the FNB Stadium) but that is history.
"We have worked hard this week and mentally and physically we are ready despite the fact we are in the dark as to what to expect from Niger.”
Masilela, who plays for Maccabi Haifa, admitted he was feeling the pressure. “There is always pressure when one plays for the national team, but it is the sort of pressure players like me thrive on.
"I enjoy the competiton, the training and I believe we are on track. But it would be a grave mistake if we took Niger for granted.
"They will be up for the challenge and it is not going to be an easy 90 minutes. The fact it is a home game, just adds to the pressure."
Bafana right back Anele Ngcongca, is expected to be selected ahead of now settled Siboniso Gaxa who signed a three-year deal with Belgium outfit Lierse this week after a protracted transfer wrangle with Mamelodi Sundowns.
Gaxa has been on the sidelines over the long drawn out transfer saga and is not 100 percent match fit.
But Ngcongca, who stars for another Belgium side Racing Genk, is happy to fight for his place in the starting line-up.
“I have been playing right back for my club and enjoyed playing in that position in the World Cup against France and against Ghana in that friendly last month.
"I am learning with every game and will continue to move forward and keep improving every time I get the opportunity.”