6 July 2017Bafana Bafana surrendered their COSAFA Castle Cup title when they went down 1-0 to Tanzania in the quarterfinals of the competition currently underway in Rustenburg, but they bounced back with a hard-earned 2-0 victory over Botswana in the Plate semifinal of the tournament just two days later.

South Africa head coach Stuart Baxter made several changes to the starting line up in the second match with only four players retaining their places – defenders Mario Booysen and Thendo Mukumela, as well midfielders Riyaad Norodien and captain Lehlogonolo Masalesa.

The quartet made their Bafana Bafana debut in the loss to Tanzania.

Norodien and second half substitute Judas Moseamedi scored the two goals against Botswana.

SAFA.net sat down with experienced campaigner in the PSL, Booysen, who was like a rock in central defence where he played alongside debutant and equally strong Mothobi Mvala.


Matlhomola Morake: Your thoughts on the clash with Botswana

Mario Booysen:  It was a very tough game, and we wanted to bounce back after that disappointing loss to Tanzania, especially because we came into the tournament as the defending champions and hosts. But it was a good experience getting that winning feeling and now we want to build on it. What is good is that almost everybody got the opportunity to play and I am happy with the shift the boys put in, so we just want to build on that into the plate final against Namibia and finish on a high. We just want to make the best of it.


MM:  What did the players do differently?

MB: We worked out the structure that was needed to play. In the first match we tried to gel and tried to do the things that the coaches wanted, but against Botswana we understood more what we had to do and stuck to the game plan. There were moments in the game when it went up and down, but to our credit we did most of the things right that’s why we came out victorious. It’s not so much of a difference from the first match but the boys were hungry and I saw the character that the boys had, that even though it was a bit of a tough game, the will to win was there.


MM:   The defence stood firm against a relentless Botswana attack

MB: It was a bit of a challenge for us defenders because they (Botswana) were coming at us non-stop, especially in the second half because they wanted to get back into the game, but defensively we did well as a team. The backline stood firm, and when we had to deal with certain things we did so collectively, also, individually we were solid, so I have to give credit to the boys for sticking to the structure – from the back line to the forwards. The boys put in a very good shift to make sure we grind out a result because sometimes you have to do just that and that’s what we did against Botswana.


MM:  Facing Namibia on Friday

MB: Namibia have a lot of PSL players in their side so it’s going to be an interesting one, but we have to stick to what we know and what we have planned. The thing is that we must go out there and fight for each other, play to the structure and play as a team and also believe in what we are doing – as the coach always tells us that we should have no regrets, we must just go there and give our all.


MM: You are one of the experienced players from the PSL alongside Gordinho, Alexander, and Norodien to mention a few – how much is that helping the youngsters?

MB: We have to be exemplary to the young boys. Yes they have played in the U20 National Team where they have done well, so they know the set-up and this is not a scare for them. But it is equally important for us plying our trade in the PSL to help them understand what the coach wants, and also to show them that leadership. It’s not about us, but about the team, we are not here for ourselves. As much as we have grown as players, we have to help the up and coming players, the good thing is that it’s not a big responsibility because football is one language. What I like about the camp is that we are all gelling nicely and we can talk about football anytime so that is good. We have to keep on encouraging the boys to believe in what they do and help them build on it. Like the SAFA President said to us the other day, most of the boys in this squad are the future, and while we are here we are the ones to help them develop to become better players and make sure they have a winning mentality.


MM: You are currently in the COSAFA CUP squad and want to see yourself in the AFCON and World CUP qualifiers?

MB:This is an opportunity for me to show that I want to be here, not just add the numbers for the COSAFA Cup squad, but to put my hand up so that when the coach wants to make a call in future he must know I am available. He has seen what I can do and I want to build on this so I can be at the back of his mind when the AFCON and World Cup qualifiers come. I want to make the most it because it is every footballers dream to play for his national team, get as many caps as possible and acquire that experience. Personally, it’s been a great experience so far and I want to build on it.

South Africa takes on Namibia in the Plate final on Friday, 7 July at the Moruleng Stadium. Kickoff is at 17h00.