Percy Tau is a man for the big occasion and Themba Zwane is irreplaceable.
Phakaaathi reporter Katlego Modiba takes you through five things we learned about Bafana Bafana following the 2-1 win over Benin at Durban Moses Mabhida Stadium in a world cup qualifier on Saturday.
1. Percy Tau BMT
Percy Tau can be counted on in big matches. He’s a man for the big occasion and seems to thrive under pressure. Bafana Bafana could ill-afford to drop points at home to Benin after a slip up by Nigeria against Lesotho who held them to a surprising 1-1 draw.
That game and Rwanda’s goalless draw proved that group C is likely to serve more curveballs in these qualifiers. Tau needed to step up following the unavailability of Lyle Foster and Lebo Mothiba. The Al-Ahly forward did just that and set Bafana on their way to a 2-1 win over the West Africans when he opened the scoring in the second minute of the game.
Known for his big match temperament, Tau was a constant menace to the Cheetahs’ defence and he’s now on 14 goals in Bafana colours.
2. Sundowns influence on Bafana
Mamelodi Sundowns’ success on the continent is also rubbing off on the national team. Six of Sundowns stars were on the line-up and it could have been more had it not been for the withdrawals of Grant Kekana and Thapelo Maseko.
Playing out from the back is the hallmark of the Brazilians’ style of play and goalkeeper Ronwen Williams is vital to that set-up for both club and country. It made life easier to have Mothobi Mvala, Khuliso Mudau and Aubrey Modiba in defence, with SuperSport United defender Siyanda Xulu also looking comfortable in possession of the ball.
Teboho Mokoena and Themba Zwane were also lively and made South Africa tick as they recorded the victory to go top of group C.
3. The Themba Zwane puzzle
Themba Zwane has proven to be irreplaceable in Bafana Bafana’s set up so far. The team simply looks different without his creativity and silky touches.
Zwane is obviously not a young man anymore and at 34, his mileage needs to be managed. Bafana did little to trouble Benin when Zwane was taken off in the second half. His ability to play on the half-turn and finding pockets of space in between the lines was missed towards the end of the game.
Hugo Broos needs to sort out this puzzle and he needs to do that as a matter of urgency. South Africa can’t afford to go to next year’s Africa Cup of Nations without a Plan B in case Zwane gets injured.
4. Khuliso Mudau should be first choice at right-back
Khuliso Mudau once again proved that he should be one of the first players on the team sheet. Not only did he put in another great shift in defence, he was also on the scoresheet.
There was a time when Broos didn’t fancy Mudau and preferred Nyiko Mobbie at right-back but it’s now clear that the 28-year-old deserves to be Bafana’s first choice at right-back.
Mudau had Ivory Coast superstar Wilfred Zaha in his pocket in last month’s friendly match and his performance against Benin was just another exhibition of his ability to perform at international level.
5. Bafana Bafana need to be ruthless at home
Bafana should have won by a bigger margin if they were more ruthless in front of goal. They should have been out of sight in the first half. A 2-0 lead was always going to a precarious one and as soon as Benin pulled one back, panic set in.
In truth, the game should have never been this close and a message needed to be sent to other group C opponents that Bafana mean business at home. However, three points is what matters most and Broos will be happy his side was able to get over the line to kick off their campaign on a positive note.