Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund will go into tonight's Nelson Mandela Cup Challenge against Nigeria at the Moses Mabhida Stadium with a depleted squad.
Following the withdrawal of six Orlando Pirates players, top of Igesund's worries will the vacant right-back position usually occupied by the reliable Anele Ngcongca of Belgian side Racing Genk.
The defender withdrew from the squad on Tuesday with his club citing an injury as the reason. However, the arrival of overseas-based duo of Dean Furman and Tokelo Rantie will serve as a major boost if Bafana are to overcome the African champions.
Captain Itumeleng Khune, is certain to start in goal while Eric Mathoho and Thabo Nthete might form a central pairing in defence. Thulani Hlatshwayo is looking likely to deputise for Ngcongca at right-back and Tshepo Masilela on the left.
Furman will look too build on the solid partnership created with Reneilwe Letsholonyane in the heart of midfield. The in-form Siphiwe Tshabalala will hope to transform his club form to the national team on the left side of attack with the pacey Thuso Phala on the right.
Tshabalala is the most-capped Bafana Bafana player in the current squad and is well aware of the mammoth task facing the squad. In seven outings South Africa and the Super Eagles have met, the hosts have won only once, drawn the other and lost five times.
"It is going to be a tough match, we know they are a quality side but it is also an opportunity for us to rise to the occasion and make the nation proud. This is not just another game; we will be facing African champions in honour of former South African State President, Nelson Mandela, so this is a very important match for us," said Tshabalala.
"The core of the team is here, but we also have new players which shows that our league is doing well to produce such players. I believe we will give a good account of ourselves even though we know that Nigeria is a very experienced and tough side. I am confident it will be a good game and we will be on the winning side."
His words were echoed by Doncaster Rovers midfield anchor Furman: "This is a very important match for us, more so it is being played on home soil. We really want to win this one, like we do with every game. The good thing is that we have shown over the last few matches that we can mix it up with the best and if it is a physical match we are ready for it, but at the same time play our own normal game," said Furman.
"The game is going to be difficult because the Super Eagles have good players playing in Europe and all over the world, so winning will give us a great boost ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Botswana next month. Winning brings confidence, and going to these crucial matches with confidence really helps increase the great team spirit in camp."
Upfront, Bernard Parker will want to atone for his freak own-goal against Ethiopia that has put a dent Bafana's chances of qualifying for next year's World Cup behind him.
Nigerian coach Steven Kheshi is not without a selection headache as well, Chelsea's Obi Mikel and Turkish-based Emmanuel Emenike miss out but he welcomes back Victor Moses who missed out on the Africa Cup of Nations due an injury. Sunday Mba, who scored the winning goal in the nations cup final against Burkina Faso has also made the trip.
Bafana Bafana's only win came in the 10th edition of the Nelson Mandela Challenge back in 2004, winning 2-1 at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg.
SA v Nigeria - previous meetings:
1994 World Cup qualifier 10 October 1992, Lagos
Nigeria 4-0 South Africa
1994 World Cup qualifier 16 January 1993, Johannesburg
South Africa 0-0 Nigeria
2000 AFCON 2nd round 10 February 2000, Lagos
South Africa 0-2 Nigeria
2004 AFCON 1st round 31 January 2004, Monastir (Tunisia)
Nigeria 4-0 South Africa
2004 Mandela Challenge 17 November 2004, Johannesburg
South Africa 2-1 Nigeria
2010 World Cup/AFCON qualifier 01 June 2008, Abuja
Nigeria 2-0 South Africa
2010 World Cup/AFCON qualifier 06 September 2008, Port Elizabeth
South Africa 0-1 Nigeria
Katlego Modiba/Own Correspondent
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