Victory on the day is essential for Bafana Bafana if they are to give themselves any chance of booking a place in Russia, and following back-to-back defeats against Cape Verde, Stuart Baxter has come under immense criticism for his team selection.
Nonetheless, on Saturday Baxter will be hoping for a better response from his charges and he is expected to make significant changes. The 64-year-old’s preparations has been interrupted an injury to Thulani Hlatshwayo as well as suspensions to other key members of the squad such as Eric Mathoho and Dean Furman.
However, Baxter will not be short of defensive options as Baxter used the opportunity to give the defensive duo of Motjeka Madisha and Cape Town City's Robyn Johannes welcome call-ups. Baxter may also look to give Dino Ndlovu a start as he looks to guide the team to victory and the Qarabag forward could be the missing link upfront. Baxter can also call upon the exciting youngster Phakamani Mahlambi if he sees a need to add some attacking impetus upfront.
Meanwhile, the South African’s will need to be at their very best as they look to tame the Stallions. Under coach Paulo Duarte, the Burkinabe have developed into a formidable outfit, proudly boasting some of the continent’s brightest talent. Duarte may also look to count on the experience of cult figure Aristide Bance, who has played for several club’s all over the world including South Africa where he plied his trade for Chippa United during the 2015/2016.
While Burkina Faso are arguably favourites going into the encounter, historically South Africa have had the better of the West African’s with Bafana winning four out of eight previous encounters between the two sides. But it should be noted that the last time the West African’s tasted victory against South Africa was back in 2005 where Baxter was coincidently the coach in charge of Bafana at the time.
Nevertheless, Bafana have never lost to Burkina Faso at home, and they will be looking to keep that impressive home record intact come game day. But it won’t be easy with Burkina Faso currently in pole position to win their group. The Burkinabe come into the clash fresh off two back-to-back draws against Senegal and victory will only further boost their chances of a 2018 World Cup berth.