Bafana Bafana scored both goals against Nigeria, yet weren’t able to secure the victory that would’ve taken them through to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.
And coach Stuart Baxter felt that his team should’ve taken the game to the Super Eagles much more in their qualifier at the FNB Stadium on Saturday.
Buhle Mkhwanazi was the unfortunate soul who got the decisive touch to a cross from the right-hand side and beat Itumeleng Khune for an own goal that put Nigeria 1-0 up in the ninth minute.
But South Africa did well to hit back, and it was that man Percy Tau who provided a bit of magic to set up the equaliser for Lebo Mothiba in the 26th minute.
However, Baxter said afterwards that his players need to put greater pressure on the Nigerians instead of trying not to concede a second goal, which saw the game end in a 1-1 stalemate.
“I’m disappointed a little bit and proud a little bit. We’ve taken four points off the Super Eagles, and the only goal we’ve conceded so far in this tournament is an own goal,” Baxter told SuperSport in a post-match TV interview.
“I’m disappointed that we weren’t braver. We said at halftime that we give them problems when we can play through, and we get our movement, and we run people away. And we challenge them one v one.
“And in the second half, we started going really long! That’s a sign of nerves, that we don’t want to concede.
“I want those balls to be played when it’s a good run, good delivery. But not just every time we get them, popping in behind their backline. I wanted more.
“And even the problems we gave them in the second half was the same, when we could run at them and combine.
“So, a little bit disappointed at the moment, but the fight goes on.”
The draw means that Nigeria have qualified for Afcon, while Bafana now need a point from their final qualifier against Libya away in March – which will probably take place in Tunisia – after the latter thrashed Seychelles 8-1 on Saturday.
Baxter stated that the lack of a killer instinct in the final third wasn’t a selection issue, but rather a mental one.
“I thought our defending, on the whole, was quite good. I think we can counter-press more, and as a team, I think we should’ve just said, ‘They are tired. That’s 15, they’re on their knees. Let’s get on the ball, move them around. Make them work’,” the coach said.
“And we didn’t. So, I don’t think that’s a selection problem – I think that’s more of a mental issue that we… Maybe, I don’t know, South Africans have had a long time, or maybe just this squad has.
“If the knife’s on the throat on that one (against Libya), then I can guarantee for everybody, we are going to be up for it.”