DURBAN – Expect wholesale changes when Bafana Bafana host Cape Verde in a World Cup group qualifier at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Tuesday night.
It is a return match in Group D after South Africa were stunned 2-1 away to the island nation, who registered their first win of the qualifying programme with Friday’s victory in Praia.
At the halfway stage of the road to the Russia 2018 World Cup, South Africa are second behind Burkina Faso, although both have four points after three outings. Senegal are third with three points, followed by Cape Verde also on three points.
After arriving at their uMhlanga hotel late on Saturday, coach Stuart Baxter gave the squad the morning off to recover from a 16-hour flight that required two fuel stoppages in Ivory Coast and Angola.
However, some players will have a lengthier break after the Scotsman promised to ring the changes across the side and even on the bench for Tuesday’s showdown.
Baxter searched for positives in his media address on Sunday, but admitted to several shortcomings in the Friday game, which ended with defender Erick Mathoho being sent off for a red card offence.
After South Africa took the lead via Tokelo Rantie, the team conceded an equaliser and a penalty, and failed to fight back following the second-half dismissal of Mathoho.
After conceding the equaliser, South Africa played “like rabbits caught in headlights”, said Baxter, who also speculated that midfielders Bongani Zungu and Lebohang Manyama might not have been “at their best mental shape” after completing transfer-deadline club moves before the clash.
Midfielder Thulani Serero is a favourite to start on Tuesday as Baxter looks to go for the jugular with a more attack-minded line-up.
“Serero is available and he’ll come into the selection. Mathoho is suspended, so we’ll discuss about bringing somebody in,” said the coach.
“You could see changes in midfield, there could be changes in the back four, possibly in the front unit, in the shape of the team, in goalkeeping and on the bench.”
South Africans will look specifically for greater character and discipline from a squad that was touted to blow the island team away in both fixtures, especially after Baxter pretty much went for consistency in sticking with the squad that beat Nigeria in his first match back in charge, an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in June.
“Travelling to and fro is fraught with frustrations. We’ve got to adjust. When we went to Nigeria, we had to adjust with cancellations and late flights. It is possible to adjust and play. It’s not perfect, but those who do are the winners.
“We’ve spoken about how to respond. Do we want a positive result badly enough to push ourselves to respond?
“Cape Verde will be more confident now than otherwise. They will come buoyed by the win and they’ll be hopeful. I see a much more competitive game now.
“We’ve got a bit of revenge to reap, more on ourselves, not only on the opposition. We’ve got to be warriors and live up to the clichés about picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off, and coming forward when it counts.
“I see both teams going for it, although they may tactically sit back. There’ll be opportunities both ways, but we are certainly going to go for it. We’ll select a slightly more mobile and offensive team.”