Warriors invade Bafana’s den DESPERATE TIMES . . . The Warriors will be under pressure to secure at least a point from their 2026 Fifa World Cup Group C qualifier against South Africa in Bloemfontein tonight

Tadious Manyepo in BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa

JAIROS Tapera has committed the better part of the past three days mentally preparing his boys for the 2026 World Cup Group C qualifier against South Africa at Free State Stadium tonight.

The match starts at 6pm.

It has not been a pleasant build up to this fixture, with the Warriors still trying to swallow the bitter pill of their shock 0-2 defeat at the hands of Lesotho at Orlando Stadium on Friday.

With only three days to relocate from Johannesburg, recuperate and refocus on the Bafana Bafana showdown, Tapera has had to commit more time to deal with his men’s mentality.

It’s a must-win game for the Warriors, who currently anchor Group C standings with just two points in three outings.

And Tapera, who has already indicated that he will be making significant changes to the line-up that started in the defeat to Lesotho, is preaching positivity.

That there is a lot more than the three points at stake, including the bragging rights, given the football rivalry between the two teams, is driving Tapera’s optimism even further.

South Africa are coming from a confident-boosting 1-1 draw away to Nigeria last Friday night and they will be eager to stamp their authority in the group at Zimbabwe’s expense.

The Warriors will be without defender Andrew Mbeba who is suspended for accumulating three yellow cards in this campaign, while Divine Lunga has fitness concerns, having sprained his ankle in the match against Lesotho.

“We have worked on the mentality side more than anything else,” said Tapera.

“We have also worked on the tactics that we think will work for us when we face South Africa.

“They might be home and feeling happy, but we are here to compete and we are going to do everything that we can to come up with a positive result.

“We are going to make changes because we are going to remodel the way we will play.

“The formation is one thing that we could change at first, so we will see how it goes.

“We are trying to talk to the players, pushing them to at least give us the best we can.”

With Group C still wide open, especially with leaders Lesotho enjoying just a three-point advantage over basement side Zimbabwe, Tapera believes a win against Bafana Bafana tonight will lift them firmly into reckoning for a place in Mexico, Canada and the United States of America.

“If we win tomorrow (today), we will be on five points and that will be huge for us then wait for the next games to come,” added Tapera.

“We are so hopeful that we will be able to win this match against South Africa.”

Zimbabwe and South Africa have met 17 times since 1992 with the Warriors claiming seven wins, the same as South Africa with the remainder ending in draws.

And midfielder Tawanda Chirewa will be keen to shine against the hosts who he will be facing for the first time.

The Wolves star gave a solid showing in the opening half of the Crocodiles defeat before fizzling out in the second.

He has read a lot and follows much about South Africa who won bronze at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivoire.

He knows the match wouldn’t be that easy but the Zimbabwean star knows the Warriors team will have better coordination than they had against Lesotho last Friday.

“It wasn’t the best debut that I would have yearned for (against Lesotho).

“It was tough. Obviously I wouldn’t say it was my best performance. I wouldn’t say the fitness and sharpness was at the level it would have been in season.

“I would have a much more improved performance, being able to shoulder fans and players on Tuesday (tonight),” said Chirewa.

“Obviously it takes a while for a team to adjust at any level. We created a lot of chances against Lesotho and we are hoping to put a much better performance against South Africa.

“We are ready for Tuesday (today). They are the favourites, they have good players, they have done well at the Africa Cup of Nations but we are Zimbabwe with a lot of players in Europe and quality players from all over.

“So we are ready. We just have to work hard and make sure that we assist the manager. With the players we have, nothing is impossible.”

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