Today is D Day for Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki who is making his debut as the head coach of the South African senior national team amid doubts from the soccer-mad public that he is not suitable to occupy the hot seat.
Ntseki took over the coaching reins from Englishman Stuart Baxter who resigned following Bafana’s quarter-final exit at the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt in July.
He will lead Bafana in their first outing since Afcon in the Nelson Mandela Challenge match against Mali in Port Elizabeth at 3pm.
Football writer Minenhle Mkhize looks at five things to expect from the new man in charge and his team.
1. Calm figure:
Ntseki comes across as very knowledgeable about football once you engage him. He is very calm and doesn’t shout at his players like many coaches do. It will be interesting to see if he can sustain this demeanour under pressure during the game and whether it rubs off on his troops. He has shown no signs of annoyance even when asked awkward questions. It might be a little early to conclude this, but so far he has shown to be media friendly.
2. An innovative coach:
Ntseki is yet to be tested in a competitive match at this level, but when he fielded his men in a practice match against Chippa United on Thursday it looked as if he is not shy to innovate. He used a number of systems and shapes and he preferred height at the heart of defence. He tested three combinations in the game where he started with the duo of Buhle Mkhwanazi and Thulani Hlatshwayo and then in the second half went for Mosa Lebusa and Eric Mathoho.
Towards the end of the game he played Mathoho alongside Mkhwanazi. In the first half, he overloaded more on the right-hand side with Thapelo Morena storming forward. After the break he overloaded the left side with Innocent Maela and Keagan Dolly who changed from left wing to right wing, looking to cut inside. He also started with a 4-3-3, then went 4-1-3-1 and then finished with a 4-5-1.
That’s a sign of a thinking coach.
3. Playing with pace, flair and fluidity:ADVERTISING
The new coach encourages attacking play. From the observation during practices this week, Bafana are likely to use a lot of pace on the wings and break through the lines. There’s a lot of speed in his team. He boasts the likes of Thapelo Morena, Maela, Dolly, Lebogang Phiri, Percy Tau and Thembinkosi Lorch. There’s also flair in his squad. There’s Thulani Serero, Themba Zwane, Kamohelo Mokotjo, Lorch and Dolly. The balance is also there when the team is not in possession.
The industrious Dean Furman is part of the mix and so is Thato Mokeke, Mothobi Mvala and Mokotjo. His team also has variation. They can play with a target man like Bradley Grobler and Lebo Mothiba who both provide height up front and can hold the ball up for oncoming midfielders.
4. Dangerous on set plays:
It was clear in the game against Chippa United that Bafana have put more emphasis on threatening opposition teams on set plays. Mkhwanazi and Hlatshwayo will be key in executing the standard situations. Dolly, Lorch and Phiri showed that they can strike directly from free-kicks. That is also a good weapon to have in a team.
5. Believes in his own philosophy:
Ntseki prefers his team to build from the back. When they are not in possession he wants his team to press high to prevent the opponents from keeping possession. Even when Chippa scored the equaliser, his men never changed their style of play. They kept possession. At times they were too slow in their build-ups which is something that Ntseki will look to work on so that they show more urgency in the final third.