The two Southern African football giants are set to lock horns in the final encounter of the Four Nations tournament in Zambia on Saturday afternoon.
Both South Africa and Zambia are fresh from semi-final wins in the inaugural tournament which was launched just before the first Fifa international break in 2018.
Bafana Bafana had to hustle for a win over the Palancas Negras of Angola on penalties on Wednesday afternoon whilst the Chipolopolo bagged a win over Zimbabwe on the same day.
With Stuart Baxter naming a strong squad for the showpiece, he opted to use newcomers in the international scene, citing development more than results as his mission, but he bagged a win via penalties over the Angolans.
The coach can be applauded for taking that step and that on its own is a sign of brilliance because a coach cannot only rely on his old guard.
However, we take a look at what he must do agaiunst the hosts, be it with his inexperienced players or with the tried and tested.
As the result against Angola suggests, they trailed behind and rallied to score from Lebohang Mothiba'sequaliser taking the game to penalties.
There is a fighting spirit in Baxter's camp and that is undoubted, but Baxter must ensure his men find the back of the net as early as possible to stun the hosts.
Although results are always a sign of progress in football, it is understandable that he is planning and building a team for the future, but he must also think about the bragging rights as far as regional football is concerned.
Darren Keet is experienced and there is no need for change and introduce Itumeleng Khune between the posts, but he must perhaps try Thulani Hlatshwayo and Daniel Cardoso at the back, give Cardoso his debut and allow ‘Tyson’ to guide him whilst resting Buhle Mkhwanazi and Motjeka Madisha.
Ramahlwe Mphahlele can start at right back and Tebogo Langerman must also start on the let flank, they can both stop Zambia whilst initiating play from the back. The coach can have Bongani Zungu in the heart of the park and hand Kamohelo Mokotjo a chance as well as refreshing his attack by introducing Percy Tau and Thembinkosi Lorch.
I am not dissing his first starting line-up against Angola, but the opponent is strong and is a well-oiled machine compared to Angola.
Coach Wedson Nyirenda is more on continuity compared to Bafana especially after Bafana’s failure to reach the 2018 Fifa World Cup last year.
Yes Chipolopolo also failed to reach Russia, but Nyirenda qualified for the 2018 Caf African Nations Championship tournament in Morocco earlier this year and their project is already in motion whilst Baxter is more on a restart.
It will be tough to play Zambia in that sense hence the need for the 1996 African champions to beef up the squad on Saturday, wait until a result is guaranteed and introduce youngsters to gain exposure and experience.
We all know how dangerous Justin Shonga, Enock Mwepu and the likes of Augustine Mulenga are especially playing in front of their home crowds in Ndola, so Baxter cannot underestimate the Zambians at home.
A player like Sibusiso Vilakazi will be needed to beef up Baxter’s attacking options, Vila is good when keeping the ball and will be dangerous with the final pass in search of Tau and the speedy Mamelodi Sundowsn must be constantly reminded to watch his runs to avoid unnecessry offside judgements and exchanging words with the officials.
Moreover, Zambia has always given Bafana a daunting task whenever the two nations meet and Nyirenda was victorious when the two nations met last year, this is a must win for Baxter never mind the importance of the clash.
Just last year, Bafana lost 2-0 to the 2012 African champions during a 2018 Chan qualifier and in my observation, it is pay back for Baxter and his men.
With both sides having fought back to claim wins in their opening matches on Wednesday, this clash will definitely provide the fireworks in Ndola and fans will surely have value for their money.