JOHANNESBURG – The responsibility to repeat what was Bafana Bafana’s first ever victory over bogey side Nigeria in June last year now probably falls on the tiny shoulders of striker Percy Tau when the two sides clash yet again on Saturday.
Tokelo Rantie, Sibusiso Vilakazi and Keagan Dolly - who all started up front for South Africa in that famous win in Uyo during the opening round of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers - are all unavailable and Themba Zwane, although in the team, has just recently recovered from injury.
Tau had come off the bench in Nigeria to score and add to Rantie’s opener in that 2-0 win, which meant it was a perfect start for coach Stuart Baxter as national team coach.
More than a year later, the Super Eagles have returned looking for payback at FNB Stadium this weekend and eager to cement their spot at the top of Group E.
A win for either side will confirm their participation at next year’s Afcon in Cameroon.
“I believe everyone in the team has a huge responsibility,” Tau, now on loan in Belgium from English Premier League club Brighton & Hove Albion, said this week.
“I am personally one of the players that always tries their best to win all the games. I share that responsibility with the rest of my teammates. Yes, we don’t have those other players here, but the guys who are here share a common responsibility, which is to win against Nigeria and go to the Afcon.”
Lebo Mothiba has emerged as a potential goal getter for Bafana after managing three goals in his first four national team appearances, and that maybe takes off some load from Tau.
Zwane has made a comeback to the team after missing the embarrassing goalless draw at home to Libya as well as the back-to-back qualifiers between Bafana and lowly Seychelles in which South Africa won the first leg 6-0 and then were held to a shocking goalless stalemate in the return match away three days later.
Nigeria’s youthful squad is more mature now and has the experience of being at the World Cup in Russia together about five months ago.
What will be a concern, however, is the fact that they are missing goalkeeper Francis Uzoho and top goal scorer Odion Ighalo. But Bafana have several more of their key players from last year’s fixture in Nigeria missing, like Dean Furman and Bongani Zungu, to add to the list already mentioned above.
Can Tau, who is likely to play just behind focal point Mothiba, carry the mantle?@superjourno
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