CAPE TOWN – There is a genuine mood of optimism and a palpable sense of excitement as Bafana Bafana prepare to tackle the Seychelles in the return leg of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers at Stade Linite today (3.30pm kickoff).
The South African national football team hammered the Indian Ocean Islanders 6-0 at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg at the weekend - and, while they may find the opposition a bit more competitive at home, another comfortable victory should be on the cards.
But the positivity around Bafana is not because of the record win over the Seychelles nor is it based on the improved performance and attitude of the team. The expectation, and anticipation, ahead of the fixture is centred on the intoxicating strike partnership of Percy Tau and Lebo Mothiba.
The enthusiasm the two footballers have engendered, and the understanding they’ve built up in a short space of time, augurs really well for Bafana’s future. Both were brilliant in the win over the Seychelles at the weekend and both got on the scoresheet - but, more importantly, their overall contribution to the team’s performance was eye-catching.
Tau’s transfer to Europe has certainly been of great benefit. He looks a more confident footballer, a player who thrives on the responsibility of being the team’s go-to man in attack.
After a rocketing to prominence at Mamelodi Sundowns, Tau sealed a multi-million-rand move to Brighton & Hove Albion in England in August. Because of work-permit issues, he was loaned to Belgian Second Division club Royale Union Saint-Gilloise - and the dynamic forward has inspired his new team to great heights.
Union SG currently top the log in their division and, in a Cup game last month, Tau was in superb form as his lower-tier team upset Belgian top flight giants Anderlecht 3-0.
The 24-year-old was also in sprightly form for Bafana on Saturday. He may have missed a chance or two, but that won’t concern head coach Stuart Baxter too much: the fact that the player is getting into scoring positions is far more important. Tau was a bubbly presence throughout the match against the Seychelles.
He has great touch, which allows him time on the ball, while his ability to get in behind packed defences is a great asset for Bafana. He dovetailed brilliantly with Mothiba, as demonstrated when Tau netted late on in the match.
Mothiba, as the hold-up striker, took a pass from midfield and intelligently skewed a wall-pass into the path of Tau, and the former Sundowns forward’s finish was unerring and clinical.
Mothiba is new to the Bafana set-up. Just 22-years-old, he is rapidly making a name for himself in France, where he plays for Strasbourg. Baxter is a big fan of the player, who is an old-fashioned, English style target man forward. He has the physique to battle it out with defenders, the awareness and game suss to find space, and, importantly, an uncanny eye for goal.
With Mohiba as the focal point of the attack, he takes a lot of pressure off Tau, who likes to ghost into areas defenders hate to police. As such, with time, as this partnership develops, expect Tau’s game to blossom even more. While SA may have lost some of its passion for Bafana in recent times, the Tau-Mothiba partnership is something worth enthusing over.
It’s the Seychelles again today - and, if the duo continues where they left off on Saturday, the opposition could be in for another tough afternoon.