Owen da Gama happy with level of competition Guinea-Bissau and Angola provided Bafana Bafana


A new-look national team containing six debut call-ups revived hopes in South Africa following their 3-1 win over Guinea-Bissau in Durban last week, before they played out a goalless draw against Angola in East London on Tuesday.

And with Bafana now looking ahead to their World Cup qualifying campaign, which pits them against Cape Verde later this year, interim coach Da Gama believes there have been plenty of positives to take away from both recent encounters.

“I believe it was a very worthwhile exercise for us. The two opponents [Guinea-Bissau and Angola] have typical Portuguese influence, which Cape Verde also has – off the ball running, very quick, and technically very strong players but not physically overpowering," said Da Gama.

"There’s a lot of similarities and now we have a good idea of what to expect when we face Cape Verde.This was the best possible preparation we could have had for the World Cup qualifier.

“But also you have to understand that in a qualifier, it’s far different than in a friendly match – in a qualifier you can only make three substitutions, you have to be sure of the positions you are going to play meaning you have to make sure that you put the right person in the right position and there’s no time for trial and error.”

Da Gama made no fewer than nine changes to the team for the Angola game, including handing out three debuts, and the coach was happy to see just how many options are available to the national team.

“It was a game where we really wanted to see how much depth we have. We tried to keep some form of a structure with [Erick] Mathoho, [Tebogo] Langerman and Rivaldo [Coetzee] as well as [Andile] Jali and [Tiyani] Mabunda, just to have a good spine. We also gave [Diamond] Thopola and the youngsters [Phakamani Mahlambi and Luther Singh] a chance so they could get a feel for it - it was not a test for the youngsters, and you have to understand it’s a big jump from U-20 to Bafana Bafana,” said Da Gama.

“When we realised the combination was not working, we made changes at the break. We brought on Ramahlwe [Mphahlele] not because Thopola was doing anything bad but we wanted more attacking options which Ramahlwe gives – we were looking for a goal. There was also support for Percy Tau from Themba Zwane, Thulani Serero and Keagan Dolly and he [Tau]) started finding his feet. In the second half, we stamped our authority.”

He continued: “We wanted a win [against Angola] badly, especially for the local supporters who were supportive from the minute we landed in East London. But it was not to be. We also wanted to bring in [Lorenzo] Gordinho but we had to keep it as stable as possible.

“It was just unfortunate that we could not play every player in camp, but they got to feel what Bafana Bafana is all about and next time they won’t be overawed by the occasion and will fit in easier.”