Still a lot of pride to play for, says Bafana skip­per

South Africa in good spir­its ahead of play-off

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - JOHN GO­LIATH

NO mat­ter what tour­na­ment or­gan­is­ers say, the third-place play-off match re­mains one of the most mean­ing­less matches in sport.

It’s a ba­si­cally a match for losers who stum­bled at the penul­ti­mate hur­dle. They are not al­lowed to go home and sulk about not mak­ing the fi­nal, but are pun­ished to play one more match which ba­si­cally has noth­ing at stake.

How­ever, Bafana Bafana seem to look for­ward to their Cosafa Cup third-place play-off match against Le­sotho this af­ter­noon at the Levy Mwanawasa Sta­dium (kick-off 1pm). The fi­nal be­tween Zam­bia and Zimbabwe will be played af­ter­wards.

There was a good vibe and lots of smiles dur­ing the team’s last train­ing ses­sion of the tour­na­ment yes­ter­day. It looks like the team have put their semi-fi­nal loss against hosts Zam­bia be­hind them, even though many of the staff and the play­ers did men­tion that wounds are still raw from that penalty shoot-out de­feat.

One man that wasn’t smil­ing yes­ter­day was mid­fielder Ruzaigh Gamil­dien, who sat out the train­ing ses­sion with a bro­ken wrist. He will also not be avail­able for se­lec­tion to­day.

Gamil­dien fell awk­wardly in the game against the Cop­per Bul­lets and when he woke up the next morn­ing his wrist was swollen, and scans re­vealed that it needs to be put in a cast.

Mean­while, cap­tain and goal­keeper Wayne Sandi­lands as­sured the me­dia yes­ter­day that his young charges aren’t home sick yet, and that they will be com­ing out swing­ing to knock Le­sotho into fourth place this af­ter­noon.

“It’s ob­vi­ously a dif­fi­cult game to play, but in any game you play for your coun­try, you need to be mo­ti­vated, whether it is in a friendly or what­ever the case may be,” said Sandi­lands

“There is a lot of pride at stake and a lot of re­spon­si­bil­ity that the play­ers carry. We just have to go out there and do what we have done in the pre­vi­ous two games and give a good ac­count of our­selves.

“We are not just rep­re­sent­ing our­selves, we have to re­mem­ber that and fo­cus on that, and then we will have that same com­mit­ment that we have shown in the pre­vi­ous games.”

The com­mit­ment has been rather im­pres­sive, al­though Bafana’s Zam­bian mil­i­tary es­corts, car­ry­ing AK47 as­sault ri­fles, did show their ded­i­ca­tion to the job yes­ter­day when they al­most ran a cou­ple of cars off the high­way on the jour­ney back to the ho­tel.

The play­ers shared a joke with the army, but their pas­sion in this tour­na­ment has been no laugh­ing mat­ter.

“The young guns have given a good ac­count of them­selves. I’m re­ally proud of the way they have con­ducted them­selves. Other teams have had way more times to be to­gether and pre­pare,” Sandi­lands said.

“In the short time th­ese guys have been to­gether, the type of unity we have shown on the field has been im­mense. We couldn’t have asked more from the guys in terms of their com­mit­ment and pas­sion.

“That’s what got us this far. We wanted to make the fi­nal, but I think the guys can still be re­ally proud of them­selves.”

The Bafana de­fen­sive line has also been re­ally im­pres­sive at this tour­na­ment, es­pe­cially in the way they man­aged to keep Zam­bia goal­less in the first half of their semi-fi­nal when their mid­field­ers strug­gled to keep the ball.

Right back Thu­lani Hlatshwayo and cen­tre back Bhule Mkhwanazi have been im­mense, both show­ing a lot of ma­tu­rity dur­ing their first taste of in­ter­na­tional football.

Sandi­lands, him­self, has also been a rock be­tween the sticks, mak­ing some top saves against Zam­bia and only con­ced­ing one goal in the tour­na­ment so far – against Namibia in the quar­ter-fi­nals.

“To see how th­ese guys have taken the re­spon­si­bil­ity, hav­ing em­braced the chal­lenge, is a big high­light. The at­ti­tude of the guys has been bril­liant,” Sandi­lands said.

“The back four have been re­ally solid. A lot of the guys are young and in­ex­pe­ri­enced at this level, but you wouldn’t say that be­cause they have each held their own.

“It will be hard to leave out some of the guys in fu­ture,” Sandi­lands added. BARCELONA coach Tito Vi­lanova is to step down due to ill- health, Span­ish me­dia re­ported yes­ter­day, with­out iden­ti­fy­ing the source of their in­for­ma­tion.

Vi­lanova, 44, has been bat­tling throat can­cer for the past cou­ple of years and spent two months hav­ing treat­ment in New York last sea­son.

Barça vice pres­i­dent Javier Faus said he was un­able to con­firm the re­ports when con­tacted by tele­phone.

A Barça spokesman could not im­me­di­ately be reached for comment. Club pres­i­dent San­dro Rosell and sport­ing di­rec­tor An­doni Zu­bizarreta were due to hold a news con­fer­ence later last night.

Sport re­ported that Joan Francesc Fer­rer, known as “Rubi”, may be in line to take over. Fer­rer led Girona to the sec­ond di­vi­sion play­offs last sea­son and was ap­pointed Vi­lanova’s as­sis­tant for the com­ing cam­paign to help with tech­ni­cal anal­y­sis of Barça’s ri­vals.

Vi­lanova, pic­tured, suc­ceeded his close friend Pep Guardi­ola at the end of the 2011- 12 sea­son af­ter Guardi­ola – now coach of Bay­ern Mu­nich – de­cided to take a year out from football.

The pair, who were at Barça’s acad­emy to­gether and coached the B side be­fore step­ping up to the first team in 2008, led the club on a spec­tac­u­lar four-year run in­clud­ing two Cham­pi­ons League crowns and three La Liga ti­tles.

Last sea­son, Vi­lanova helped Barça to a fourth La Liga suc­cess in five years as they equalled Real Madrid’s record points haul from the pre­vi­ous term. – Sapa

DUIF DU TOIT, GALLO IM­AGES

CAP­TAIN COURA­GEOUS: Bafana Bafana skip­per and goal­keeper Wayne Sandi­lands says he’s proud of his young team, who showed com­mit­ment and pas­sion through­out the tour­na­ment.

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