Hlompho Kekana can bring some much-needed cut and thrust to the Bafana attack against Nigeria. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Can Bafana Bafana wake up from their Seychelles slumber against Nigeria on Saturday?

The South Africans can secure qualification for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations with a victory at the FNB Stadium.

Stuart Baxter’s men will still take confidence from the incredible 2-0 win over the Super Eagles in June 2017 in Uyo, but as Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr said this week, he has a vastly different team who have come through an outstanding World Cup campaign.

Here is our Bafana starting XI…

Goalkeeper: Itumeleng Khune

Undoubtedly the No 1 shot-stopper in the country, Khune is the first name on the Bafana team-sheet. But he is going to have his hands full against a lethal Nigerian attacking force. Ahmed Musa, Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho more than make up for the loss of the injured Odion Ighalo and Wilfred Ndidi.

Defenders: Ramahlwe Mphahlele, Thulani Hlatshwayo, Buhle Mkhwanazi, Sfiso Hlanti

They have become the established back-four for Bafana Bafana in recent months, and have not conceded a goal in the last three Afcon qualifiers against Libya and Seychelles (twice).

But Tebogo Langerman and Erick Mathoho were alongside Mphahlele and Hlatshwayo in the famous 2-0 win in Uyo in June 2017, so it will be a new experience for Mkhwanazi and Hlanti to deal with that dangerous Nigerian front-line.

Midfielders: Vincent Pule, Hlompho Kekana, Thembinkosi Lorch, Thulani Serero.

After the embarrassing 0-0 stalemate in the last qualifier against Seychelles, something has got to give in the midfield. Injuries to Dean Furman and Kamohelo Mokotjo have created two vacancies, and here is a chance for Baxter to be more adventurous.

Hlompho Kekana’s reputation as a hard-man and midfielder who can score pile-drivers from distance precedes him. He can bring much-needed bite to the Bafana attack, and break up Nigeria’s moves as well.

And the former golden boy, Thulani Serero, is just what South Africa need to unlock defences. His silky skills and movement could be the support Percy Tau needs in the final third.

Dino Ndlovu and Lebohang Maboe were both in the starting line-up in the second Seychelles match, so impressive Pirates duo Vincent Pule and Thembinkosi Lorch must be given a chance to make a difference.

Strikers: Percy Tau, Lebo Mothiba

Is Tau an out-and-out striker, or a left winger? That’s the dilemma facing Baxter. For me, Tau should not be a traditional No 9, but rather a No 10 – like Lionel Messi is for Barcelona – and he needs to dovetail with Lebo Mothiba, who is the man who must bury the ball in the back of the net.

@ashfakmohamed


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