By Petros Kausiyo
WARRIORS coach Callisto Pasuwa wants his charges to treat Swaziland with respect ahead of their blockbuster back-to-back Nations Cup qualifiers over the Easter weekend.
The Warriors will face Sihlangu in Mbabane for the first leg of the Group L top of the table encounters on Good Friday before they host the reverse tie at the National Sports Stadium on Easter Monday.
Both teams have four points from two matches having won and drawn in their opening two assignments.
Pasuwa, however, believes the biggest challenge he faces ahead of the back-to-back clashes is to ensure that there wasn't complacency among his players and a belief within the nation that Swaziland will be an easy stroll in the park.
In fact, the coach ranks Sihlangu as a banana skin that could wreck the Warriors' qualification aspirations.
"In this competition there are no points that will come on a silver platter. We have to fight very hard for every point let alone three points and I think the biggest challenge we have is to get these players to respect Swaziland and not under-estimate them.
Yes, they might not have many players who play in professional leagues, but we need to understand that unlike most teams on the continent, Swaziland operate more like a club in that their team is always together and they have been together for a long time.
"We only get to meet for two or three days of full training at most and in such situations we have to rely on such things like tactics, conditioning, technique and fighting spirit and also work on our cohesion.
"We also have to realise that Swaziland are not joint top by mistake, they have been playing well in this group and we have to be at our best in these two games," Pasuwa said.
The Warriors coach had 11 players in training on Day One of their preparations with two others -- Chippa United defender Eric Chipeta and Maritzburg United's in-form striker Evans Rusike -- having arrived in the afternoon.
The pair were in action for their respective clubs in South Africa the previous day.
Pasuwa said he had been impressed by the condition of the players who had turned up for camp so far and remained hopeful that it would be a similar tale for the likes of skipper Willard Katsande, Marvelous Nakamba, Knowledge Musona and Matthew Rusike who were expected in late last night.
The other foreign-based quintet of veteran defender Onismor Bhasera, Mamelodi Sundowns talismanic forward Khama Billiat, seasoned striker Cuthbert Malajila and Sparta Prague defensive rock Costa Nhamoinesu are also expected to fly in today.
"So far I am very happy with the conditioning of the players especially those that have been paying games and I hope no-one picked serious knocks from their club duties over the weekend. If they can maintain their conditions then we will be good to go".
Pasuwa was, however, not amused with the travel arrangements being put in place amid indications that ZIFA want the Warriors to fly to Mbabane in two batches over two days.
Given the limited time there is for preparations, Pasuwa had wanted all his men to be together and fine-tune for Friday night's match without disruptions.
The Warriors coach has also demanded that all the players who will be in camp, be allowed to fly to Mbabane given that the two matches will be played inside four days.
"We need everyone who is coming into camp to be there for both games because they are so close to each other and we can't afford to drop anyone for two or three days.
"They have to be all there and be part of the first match even if they are not playing in that game because we may need to use them on the Monday game," Pasuwa said.
Pasuwa is looking to have 24 players should all his men turn up and with the significance that the coach is attaching to the top of the table showdown with Swaziland, ZIFA would have to dig a little deeper into their pockets and grant him his wish.
The Warriors cannot afford to take chances if they are to take a giant step towards qualification for the 2017 Nations Cup in Gabon and taking an extra four or five players in readiness for your decisive matches will not really dent the association's coffers.
But away from the concerns over the Warriors' travel arrangements and the size of their contingent, winger Kuda Mahachi who plies his trade with Golden Arrows in the South African Premiership echoes his coach's worry at underestimating Sihlangu.
Mahachi has found his touch again after enduring a frustrating period at Super Disk giants Sundowns and has established himself as one of the most important players at Arrows.
The former Chicken Inn winger said he had been closely following Swaziland football and warned his teammates against underrating their opponents.
"We should never underrate Swaziland at all. We might have the better players, but I can tell you that Swaziland are very prepared. They cancelled their league programme so that they can play two friendly matches against Lesotho.
"I also watched their clubs when they played against South African teams and because all their players are there in Swaziland, it always gives them more time together and to understand each other.
"So we must keep focused and make sure we get the six points because they are very important for our campaign," Mahachi said.
Mahachi, one of the stars of the Warriors 2014 CHAN tournament in South Africa, also rallied the fans to come to the National Sports Stadium on Monday.
"It is always very difficult to play against the same team back-to-back and in a very short space of time and that is when you need your home fans to help you and intimidate the opponents.
"I hope they can come in thousands at the National Stadium because we really need them," Mahachi said.
Mahachi also admitted that he was enjoying his career which has been rejuvenated at Arrows.
"As a player you go through a rough patch and I think my rough patch was at Sundowns, but I am enjoying my game at Golden Arrows now, they have a good set up and they have good facilities . . . I am very much at home there," Mahachi said.
Source: All Africa