Going into the first clash on Friday evening in Polokwane, so much is at stake as both sides know that only victory will keep their hopes of Russia alive.
While Senegal are clear favourites going into the clash as they have the likes of Liverpool’s Sadio Mane and Monaco’s Keita Balde within their ranks, what Stuart Baxter has in his favour is that they have never lost to the Lions of Teranga in competitive competitions.
Bafana have suffered previous defeats against the west African nation in international friendlies in 2004 and 2005 where they were edged out 2-1 and 3-2 respectively.
What is worrying though, is the amount of draws between the two sides. In seven previous meetings barring the now abolished impressive 2-1 victory back in November of 2016, both sides have shared the spoils on three separate occasions, and come Friday night at the Peter Mokaba Stadium, a draw will see Bafana’s Russian hopes go up in flames.
But it is also important to note that Bafana have shown resurgence against their opponents in recent years which will give them confidence as they look to pull off the unthinkable.
After playing out to a 1-1 draw at the 2015 African Cup of Nations, under Baxter’s predecessor Shakes Mashaba, the 67-year-old masterminded a 1-0 victory courtesy of a Mpho Makola strike.
The victory was the national team’s first within 90 minutes as the only other time Bafana have walked away all smiles against Senegal was in a Nelson Mandela Challenge encounter in 2002 where they overcame Senegal 4-1 on penalties.
Nonetheless, going into Friday’s encounter, a tightly fought contest is expected, and Bafana know all too well that while their football has declined over past few years, the Senegalese have grown in leaps and bounds.
This only means that come Friday's encounter and the return leg in Dakar, Bafana will need to put aside all their off-the-field problems aside and be at their absolute best if they are to stand any chance of progression.