The crowds have been poor, the winter chill bitingly cold and the matches generally lacking in atmosphere in the eerily empty stadium in the North West town of Rustenburg for the 2017 Cosafa Castle Cup tournament. But, as they say in showbiz, the show must go on.
Most of the Southern African countries in the competition have brought relatively young and inexperienced teams and South Africa are no exception, as coach Stuart Baxter selected a combination of U-20 and U-23 players, with a smattering of senior players to guide the youngsters.
“We have established Vision 2022 [a master plan for the advancement of local football] and for now we are still on track,” said South African Football Association president Danny Jordaan, saying Cosafa and the African Nations Championship should be used for development.
“There is simply no time to experiment at international level,” said Baxter. “But tournaments like the Cosafa are ideal to throw in most of the youngsters earmarked for a role in the senior team, to see how they cope with the pressure.”
With most of the participating countries having to qualify for the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia and the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, they are using the Cosafa tournament to assess the capabilities of various players.
Tanzania, Angola, Zimbabwe and Madagascar, which have been involved in a mini-league version of the tournament, have been impressive up to this stage, with seeded teams, including South Africa, entering the fray this weekend.
A lot of responsibility will inevitably rest on the shoulders of 27-year-old Cape Town City winger Aubrey Ngoma, the oldest Bafana Bafana player in the squad.