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Bafana Bafana's striking conundrum ahead of Burkina Faso clash

Posted: 5 October 2016 Time: 14:14

Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba has somewhat of a dilemma on his hands ahead of his side's Group D World Cup qualifying opener on Saturday evening.

South Africa kick-off the Russia 2018 qualifiers against Burkina Faso looking for a solid start to their campaign, something they failed to do in the Afcon qualifiers as they missed out on a berth at Gabon 2017.

The Stallions, who safely navigated their passage to next year's Afcon, will not be broken down easily, having conceded just two goals in six Nation's Cup qualifiers.

So who is Mashaba relying on to get past a stubborn Burkinabe defence?

Tokelo Rantie

A firm favourite under Mashaba, Tokelo Rantie has held the mantle in recent years as the country's main striker, with ten national goals to his name.

Yet a look back at this year's stats tells a somewhat worrying tale: although plagued with injury, Rantie played a total of just 108 minutes for Bournemouth for the entire 2015/16 campaign, and just 39 minutes this calendar year. He has since moved to Turkish club Gençlerbirliği, making just two substitute appearances totalling 19 minutes in the first five games of the new season.

Compared to his 58 minutes of club action this year, Rantie has played 171 minutes across three games for the national team in 2016. The 26-year-old registered his name on the scoresheet away to Cameroon in an Afcon qualifier in March, despite not having played in club colours for two months prior to that fixture.

Rantie has delivered before without much game-time under his belt, and may very well be selected to do so again.

Thamsanqa Gabuza

Also a shoe-in of late in the national side, Thamsanqa Gabuza, like Rantie, has enjoyed more minutes in national team colours than his club jersey of late.

The Orlando Pirates striker started both of Bafana Bafana's last two matches - the last Afcon qualifier against Mauritania, and the Nelson Mandela Cup victory over Egypt - yet has been in Tendai Ndoro's shadow at the Bucs, having seen just 21 minutes of action as a substitute so far this season.

Gabuza started all four Afcon qualifiers played this year, netting two goals in the 4-0 drubbing over Gambia. Yet with a lack of action at club level so far this season, will he be sharp enough when it counts for the national team?

READ: Shakes: We've learnt our lessons

Sibusiso Vilakazi

New Mamelodi Sundowns forward Sibusiso Vilakazi has not been part of the Brazilians' CAF Champions League campaign as he is cup-tied, but featured in all four of Downs' MTN8 fixtures, as well as their sole Absa Premiership game against Maritzburg United.

He has two assists and a fortuitous goal via a deflection to show for his efforts, and was called up last month for the national team where he started against Mauritania, and came on as a substitute against Egypt.

Whether he will fit into Mashaba's plans, and be able to unlock the Burkina Faso defence, remains to be seen.

Eleazar Rodgers

The current man-of-the-moment, Eleazar Rodgers has been in fine form for new club Bidvest Wits this season, with two assists and two goals - including one in the final of the Clever Boys' victorious MTN8 campaign - to show for his efforts.

Brought in as a replacement for Henrico Botes after netting six goals for Platinum Stars last season, 31-year-old Rodgers seems a rejuvenated man under Gavin Hunt, capitalising on the injuries of fellow forwards at the club, James Keene and Phakamani Mahlambi.

Yet Rodgers has made just two starts for Bafana Bafana, his last in 2008, and did not feature when last called up in 2012. On-form, yet with little international experience: can Rodgers' continue his fairytale run this season with a goal against Burkina Faso?

Thobani Mncwango

Polokwane City's Thobani Mncwango netted a healthy 13 Absa Premiership goals last season, and has followed that up with two goals and an assist already this campaign.

The 28-year-old has been called up to the national team before, but is yet to earn his first minute in the Bafana Bafana shirt.

Could Mncwango be the unlikely hero, on debut, to give South Africa the perfect start on their road to Russia?

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Goals are no doubt imperative to ensure a solid start for South Africa in their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign. Who do you think should lead the line for Bafana Bafana on Saturday? Leave your comments below, or interact with us on Facebook and Twitter!

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Article by: Fabio De Dominicis
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