New coach Hugo Broos told South Africans on Wednesday that "you can kill" him if the team fail to reach the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in the Ivory Coast.
Bafana Bafana (The Boys) missed out on the next Cup of Nations, scheduled in Cameroon from January 9 to February 6, which triggered the sacking of former boss Molefi Ntseki.
Belgian Broos, who guided outsiders Cameroon to the 2017 Cup of Nations title in Gabon, replaced Ntseki and held his first press conference at the national football association offices in Soweto.
The 62-year-old admitted that qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar would be difficult, especially as he wants to rebuild the squad, using younger players.
But securing a place at the 24-team finals of the 2023 Cup of Nations was non-negotiable, stressed the 69-year-old former Belgium defender.
"If we are not qualified for that, you can kill me," he said with a deadpan expression. "I know this country is looking forward to success."
After decades of apartheid-induced isolation, South Africa returned to international football in 1992 and won the Cup of Nations four years later on home soil.
Second and third places at the following two editions in Burkina Faso and Ghana/Nigeria led most South Africans to believe the country would become an African powerhouse.
- Bit part players -
But as the years passed, Bafana became an increasingly bit part player on the continental stage, qualifying for only two of the last seven Cup of Nations and gaining entry to another as hosts.
"When rebuilding, there are always moments of weakness, so it can happen that we will not qualify for the (2022) World Cup. That said, we will do our utmost to reach Qatar," said Broos.
South Africa are in Group G with favourites Ghana, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia, and only the winners after a double round advance to the final round.
Fortunately for Broos, the first two matchdays have been put back three months to September because many national stadiums in Africa do not meet international standards.
The new dates will offer him time to watch some national league matches before briefly returning home to get his second Covid-19 vaccine on June 4.
Broos said he will be assisted by Macedonia-born Cedomir Janevski, 59, who currently coaches Olympiakos Nicosia, and a South African to be named.
After exceeding expectations by guiding Cameroon to a fifth Cup of Nations title in 2017, Broos struggled in 2018 World Cup qualifiers and the 2017 Confederation Cup.
The Indomitable Lions were hammered 4-0 by Nigeria and won only one of six World Cup qualifiers and took just one point from a possible nine when finishing last in a Confederation Cup group.
(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)