Bafana Bafana’s chances at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) hinge on the performances of their deadly strike pair, Percy Tau, and Lebo Mothiba.
The continental showpiece tournament kicks off in Egypt on Friday, with the South African national side’s opening match scheduled for Monday when they take on the Ivory Coast.
The other two teams in Bafana’s group are Morocco and Namibia.
It’s a tough group – but, if Tau and Mothiba produce the type of form they’ve shown for their European clubs last season, then qualification for the next round of the event is certainly possible.
The 25-year-old Tau set the PSL alight with some scintillating displays for Mamelodi Sundowns.
He twice won the PSL title with Sundowns and was an influential presence when the Pretoria club won the prestigious African Champions League.
His rise to prominence was meteoric and he was named PSL Footballer of the Year two seasons ago.
It was, therefore, no surprise when Tau was snapped up by English Premier League club Brighton and Hove Albion. However, with work permit issues, the striker was loaned to Belgian Second Division side Union Saint-Gilloise.
As expected, the Bafana man continued to catch the eye, turning in brilliant performances for his new club, so much so that he was named as the Belgian Second Division’s Player of the Season.
In March this year, with Bafana needing to draw or win against Libya to seal qualification for Afcon 2019, it was Tau who rose to the occasion, netting twice as the South Africans won 2-1.
The 23-year-old Mothiba was at Lille in France’s Ligue 1 when he first started to alert clubs to his promise. But it was at Strasbourg last season that he really gave notice that he is a player to watch.
His goals and all-around ability led Strasbourg to the final of the French Cup, where they eventually triumphed on penalties against Guingamp.
Mothiba’s performances in France caught the eye, though, and he was nominated for Ligue 1’s 2019 African Player of the Year award.
Now, Tau and Mothiba anchor Bafana’s effort at the 2019 Afcon in Egypt. Both will be aware that this is an opportunity for them to continue to hog the spotlight. They’re in the European football shop window.
Mothiba is already the on the radar of more prominent French clubs as well as a few English Premier League teams.
With a work permit still an issue, it’s unlikely that Tau will be at Brighton next season – but a good Afcon campaign could well result in the player being sent on loan to a more high profile club.