With a number of his regular midfield starters out through an assortment of injuries‚ coach Stuart Baxter will have no option but to make key changes in the heart of his line-up when Bafana Bafana host Nigeria in a penultimate Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier at FNB Stadium on Saturday.
Kamohelo Mokotjo and Dean Furman‚ two players who started for Bafana in their last two qualifiers against Seychelles‚ are out injured and Baxter is likely to fill that area with the Mamelodi Sundowns duo of Hlompho Kekana and Tiyani Mabunda.
Prodigal son Thulani Serero is set to be given the playmaker role after smoking the peace pipe with Baxter to end a self-imposed exile.
Also likely to start in midfield is another Sundowns attacking midfielder‚ Themba Zwane‚ who missed the Seychelles games due to injury.
“I have a choice to either put in Hlompho with Sugar [Mabunda] because they play together or I can try and go with one of the other two [Tebogo Mokoena and Fortune Makaringe]‚ who really are for the future‚” said Baxter. “I’ve got to make that decision based on how we want to play and how we want to get at them.
“So I think whoever I pick will do the job.
“It ’s a big ask for them to go up against the likes of [Alex] Iwobi and people like that‚ but I think they will do the job.”
Baxter admitted he was close to finalising his starting line-up against a Nigerian side he has managed to beat in two previous matches at the helm.
“I’ve got an idea [of the starting XI] but maybe there’s one or two places that I’m not 100% certain of at the moment‚” said the Briton on Wednesday.
“I want the camp to tell me about that [the starting line-up].”