Which 9 should lead the Bafana line?

KickOff.com takes a closer look at South Africa's primary forwards Dino Ndlovu, Lebo Mothiba and Percy Tau ahead of the first meeting with the Group E whipping boys at FNB Stadium on Saturday.

After the recent stalemate between Mamelodi Sundowns and Bidvest Wits, coach Gavin Hunt made an interesting observation with regards to Absa Premiership football and the current frailties of the national team.

Both the Brazilians and the Clever Boys spurned a host of chances in an entertaining end-to-end spectacle at the Lucas Masterpieces Moripe Stadium and the experienced tactician lamented the lack of anticipation and decision making in the final third.

"Scoring goals is an ongoing problem," Hunt said.

"If you look at those situations when you get in those areas where you get the three on two, when you get players that pass to the right side - that is the difference between top league football and our football, and I think that's the only difference. I think our midfield is as good as any in the world, our shape is good, things have become so much more advanced in South Africa.

"People are upping their games, but in the final third it is absolutely ridiculous that you can't play a pass at the right time or the right weight, or the right height. I think that is something lacking in our football, something you have to continuously work on."

Bafana's options:

Baxter has been spoilt for choice in midfield, with the likes of Thabang Monare, Xola Mlambo, Siphelele Ntshangase and Andile Jali all overlooked for the latest squad.

The defensive options may not be of the standard of yesteryear, but the organisational chemistry between Wits trio Sifiso Hlanti, Buhle Mkhwanazi and Thulani Hlatshwayo will provide adequate protection for the upcoming encounters against the African minnows.

But up front, with 11 goals in the last 10 games over the past 12 months, there's been a real opportunity for someone to stake their claim as Bafana Bafana's leading number nine.

Tokelo Rantie looked set to become that attacking talisman after scoring 13 goals in 26 starts, but is now looking to rebuild his once promising career back in the South African top-flight with Cape Town City.

And this begs the question? Will it be Ndlovu? Mothiba? Or will Baxter keep faith in Tau as the false nine?

Ndlovu, 28, may not have a sterling reputation amongst the local football fraternity with a paltry record of four goals and as many assists in 42 PSL games.

However, over the past three seasons, the stocky left-footed forward has displayed incredible adaptability, discipline and work ethic to excel within the obscure realms of the Cypriot and Azerbaijani top-flights before his lucrative move to China.  

A return of 51 league goals in 87 games with the respective clubs has proven his eye for goal, composure and general ability to get into scoring positions.

Those that may argue of the strength of the leagues should take a step back to think of how many occasions we've seen in the Absa Premiership, where players have missed chances that looked easier to score - to acknowledge that goal scoring is the hardest task on the pitch - irrespective of what level it's played at.

And approaching Seychelles, who are by no means world beaters, would it not make sense for the Klerksdorp-born hitman to finally be given a chance to prove his worth in Bafana Bafana colours and silence his detractors?

He's yet to start a single game for South Africa, with just five cameo appearances to his name, bearing no goals.

And then we have Mothiba, starring in Ligue 1 this season at the age of 22.

The Diambars Academy graduate has scored 20 league goals in 52 games within the top two divisions of French football.

His robust style and tireless running within the channels along with his recent rich vein of form has drawn plenty of plaudits on a more glamorous stage than the Chinese second division.

But with less experience than journeyman Ndlovu, it could be wiser to ease him into senior national team football.  

There are many factors to consider when making this claim, as fatigue or injuries could affect his meteoric rise in the French top-flight, while the South African public can also be unforgiving if he struggles in the high-pressure fixtures.

And this could affect his rising confidence.

However, throwing him into the deep end could accelerate his development in what's likely to be a successful national career for the burly centre-forward, who's already scored twice in his first two international outings.

Starts up front for Bafana attackers over the past 12 months 

Percy Tau - 7
Lebo Mothiba - 1
Tokelo Rantie - 3
Bradley Grobler - 1
Kermit Erasmus - 1

Other call-ups:

Phakamani Mahlambi
Thamsanqa Gabuza
Lars Veldwijk

Should Baxter start Mothiba and Ndlovu in a 4-4-2? Should Tau move out wide or remain leading the line? Post your comments below.

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