Previewing South Africa’s AFCON 2023 Chances As Bafana Bafana Receive Heroes Send Off to Ivory Coast

Previewing South Africa’s AFCON 2023 Chances As Bafana Bafana Receive Heroes Send Off to Ivory Coast

Jarryd Westerdale
updated at January 11, 2024 at 2:54 PM
In this article:
CAF Africa Cup of Nations logo
  • Bafana Bafana have boarded their flight to Ivory Coast to the hopeful cheers from fans
  • Hugo Broos' team played to a goalless draw against Lesotho in one last warm-up match
  • South Africa will be expecting Bafana Bafana to at least progress from the group stage

Hugo Broos will want the crowd to be considerably bigger when he and his team return.

Fans graced OR Tambo International Airport with song and dance to wave off the nation's best in the hope of something spectacular over the next six weeks.

Preparations have been less than ideal with an extended league season, player withdrawals, and grumblings from the public around the squad the Belgian has chosen to take to West Africa.

South Africa, Bafana Bafana, AFCON 2023, Hugo Broos, Khuliso Mudau, Percy Tau.
Bafana Bafana received a heroes send-off to AFCON 2023 but will they return dejected or triumphant? Photos: YELL0WMAN and @KickOff.
Source: Twitter

Sports Brief goes through each block of the team as well as their chances against each of their Group E opponents.

Previewing South Africa at AFCON 2023

Bafana Bafana's defence

Ronwen Williams will wear the armband so he should be the first name on the team sheet. In front of him on either flank should be the familiar faces of his Mamelodi Sundowns teammates, Khuliso Mudau and Aubrey Modiba.

South Africa will likely start the tournament with the same team that took the field against Benin in the opening FIFA World Cup qualifier, with Siyanda Xulu paired with Mothobi Mvala - if a doctor's report relayed by FARPost is accurate.

Grant Kekana and Nkosinathi Sibisi will be able replacements if needed, but the backline has proved its relative solidity while offering a strong attacking threat. However, they will rely heavily on those in front of them for protection.

Questions about the midfield

Njabulo Blom had been Broos' preferred anchorman in midfield but limited game time has seen him being left in South Africa. Sphephelo Sithole seems the chosen replacement but he only plays in Portugal's second division.

Alongside him will likely be Teboho Mokoena. It is easy for the Sundowns midfielder to look good for his club as they are generally on the front foot, but will he be able to cope when he has to constantly put out fires?

An ace up Broos' sleeve could be Jayden Adams, who has been instrumental in Stellebosch FC's surge in the last 12 months. Oswin Appolis is also someone who could come off the bench to provide a spark.

Where will the goals come from?

Lyle Foster's Burnley situation and Lebo Mothiba's injury must be forgotten, and faith must be put in either Evidence Makgopa or Zakhele Lepasa to at least harass their markers.

Percy Tau, Thapelo Maseko, and Mihlali Mayembela will be the threats out wide or in the channels, with South Africa likely to play on the counter against Mali and Tunisia. Whoever plays up front against Namibia can have no excuses.

Themba Zwane has to prove the qualities spoken so highly of by Broos, as this AFCON is the 34-year-old's last chance to go from being a Sundowns legend to having the admiration of the whole nation.

South Africa's AFCON group stage games

Mali, January 16

Broos would likely take a draw if you offered it to him now. If South Africa can get any ascendancy over their midfield, they will be in business, but the Malians may have the legs on their South African opponents.

Failure to match Mali's midfield will expose the central defenders and the West Africans have shown an ability to be intricate around the edge of the box.

Namibia, January 21

This is the pathway to the knockout round. Regardless of the score against Mali, three points here should get South Africa enough for at least a best-placed third-place spot.

Unfortunately, Bafana Bafana have proven to be at their most vulnerable when against lower-ranked opposition and if they are not ruthless, Peter Shalulile and Deon Hotto are waiting to earn Collin Benjamin a massive scalp.

Tunisia, January 24

Beat Namibia and this game will be preparation for the knockouts. The North Africans are the most disciplined in the group so if SA need a win, they will be in trouble.

In either scenario, it could provide an opportunity for Broos to be more adventurous. This could unlock the risk-taking confidence that this group thrives on, something that will be needed to reach the quarter-finals and beyond.

Reaching the knockouts will be the first checkpoint and once achieved, the team can play knowing each 90 minutes is a chance to defy expectations.

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Hugo Broos aims blame at PSL

Sports Brief previously reported on Hugo Broos taking a swipe at PSL organisers for their AFCON stance.

The Belgian coach claimed that he had pleaded with the league to go on a break, but it fell on deaf ears.

However, Broos admitted there was no blueprint for success at the 'intense' continental championship.

Jarryd Westerdale photo
Jarryd Westerdale
Jarryd Westerdale (based in Johannesburg) joined Sports Brief after four years in the community journalism sphere. He is a two-time Alet Roux Award winner and was a finalist in multiple categories at the Forum of Community Journalism Excellence Awards.
Hugo Broos