Nyathi, rated as the best left-back the country has ever produced and a key figure in the Bafana side that lifted the Nations Cup trophy in 1996, believes coach Gordon Igesund’s side must not fear any of the other 15 qualifiers for the 2013 tournament.
He says home advantage and a well-planned build-up to the event will be key for the country’s success, and the latter can be properly plotted after tomorrow night’s draw.
“You have to be ready to play any team, it should not really matter who South Africa draw tomorrow night,” Nyathi tells Goal.com. “You cannot go into a tournament hoping that you won’t play this side or that one, that puts you into the wrong frame of mind altogether. A well-prepared, fit South Africa is a match for any of these other sides.”
Nyathi should know, South Africa were drawn into a tough group in 1996, facing Cameroon, Angola and Egypt.
They won their opening two encounters against the Indomitable Lions and Palancas Negras, which set the tone for the remainder of the competition. They could even afford a ‘dead-rubber’ defeat to Egypt in their final pool match.
Nyathi, who is now a youth coach with Ajax Cape Town, says momentum will be a key factor in 2013.
“If you can get a good early win, it creates the confidence within the group of players, the technical team and the supporters. Confidence is a huge factor, you cannot go into any game fearing the opposition. You can respect them, but never fear them.”
Nyathi says the planning for the tournament from the Bafana technical team will begin in earnest after the draw, as they will be able to plot their way through the tournament and assess likely challengers for the title.
“The draw brings everything together, from tomorrow the technical team can line-up the friendly matches that they think will best benefit the team in terms of getting them ready for the competition.
“The coach will already have the core of his squad, he will know the players he wants to take the tournament with one or two exceptions. The outcome of the draw might make up his mind one way or another.”
Being such a central figure the last time South Africa hosted the Africa Cup of Nations 16 years ago, Nyathi says he has high hopes that this event will supply a similar boost to the image of the country’s football.
“It is a huge marketing tool for the country of course, and the field that will take part in the event should mean plenty of international interest. It is a very good platform for us to begin to regain our respect in world football.”