JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – South Africa coach Gordon Igesund is wary of Namibia before a Cosafa Cup quarter-final in Zambia on Saturday.
The 'Brave Warriors' have shocked 'Bafana Bafana' (The Boys) twice in previous editions of the annual southern Africa national team championship.
Boths upsets came in Windhoek with an extra-time goal bringing a 3-2 victory and Namibia winning another showdown on penalties after a 1-1 stalemate.
South Africa received a FIFA rankings-related bye into the quarter-finals this year and withdrawals have robbed Igesund of half his original 20 players.
Namibia secured a date with their neighbours by defeating Indian Ocean challengers Mauritius 2-1 and Seychelles 4-2 to top Group A.
Both wins came at the compact Nkoloma Stadium in Lusaka, the setting for a last-eight double-header with title-holders Zimbabwe facing Malawi first.
Tackling Bafana Bafana is a dream come true for Namibia coach Ricardo Mannetti, a South Africa-based professional for many years.
His most successful spell was under Igesund as unfashionable Cape Town outfit Santos defied the odds to be crowned 2002 South African Premiership champions.
"Anything can happen when Namibia face South Africa because it is always an emotional occasion," recently appointed Mannetti told reporters.
"We have defied the odds to shock Bafana Bafana several times in the Cosafa Cup and I would love to get one over my former boss Gordon."
Igesund concedes that the 66-place advantage South Africa enjoy over Namibia in the FIFA world rankings will count for little this weekend.
"It would be foolhardy to take Namibia for granted after they achieved good victories over Mauritius and the Seychelles.
"They held Africa Cup of Nations champions Nigeria in a World Cup qualifier last month and that is sufficient warning for us," he stressed.
While Mannetti watched his team waste many chances when beating the Mauritians and the Seychellois, Igesund battled with a spate of pull-outs.
"My players are not horses," fumed Kaizer Chiefs official Bobby Motaung after withdrawing four players.
Other clubs preparing for a new Premiership season took similar action, leaving Igesund with a squad including two players from second-tier side Jomo Cosmos.
Anger over a $10,000 (7,600-euro) bonus offer to Malawi caretaker coach Tom Saintfiet has overshadowed the clash with Zimbabwe.
The Belgian says he is working for free and will pocket the cash only if Malawi win in Nigeria during September and reach the play-offs for 2014 World Cup slots.
"Why do officials not make similar offers to the players?," asked captain and midfielder Joseph Kamwendo before the squad left for Zambia.
"We have been fighting for bonus increases for a long time, but officials just ignore us."
Kamwendo, once on the books of South African giants Orlando Pirates, says he and his team-mates will get just $85 (65 euros) each for toppling Zimbabwe.
Ex-Namibia and Ethiopia coach Saintfiet has made changes to the list of predecessor Edington Ng'onamo, including axing goalkeeper Charles Swini.
Zimbabwe coach Klaus-Dieter Pagels can draw confidence from a 1-1 friendly draw in Malawi last month as he takes an experimental squad to Lusaka.
Among those called up for the first time are strikers Tendai Ndoro and Lot Chiwunga and goalkeeper Tafadzwa Dube.
The other quarter-finals pit Angola against shock Group B winners Lesotho and Mozambique against Zambia Sunday in mining town Kitwe.