Cape Town - Bafana Bafana take on Senegal in a 2018 Soccer World Cup qualifier on Saturday (15:30) with coach "Shakes" Mashaba needing a win to maintain the objective of qualifying for the sporting showpiece in Russia.
Mashaba has named a 25-man squad including Belgium-based newcomer Lars Veldwijk who will be aiming to make his debut against the Lions of Teranga.
Bafana Bafana will be aiming to improve their qualifying record on previous campaigns that saw the national team disappoint by failing to reach major tournaments including the last two World Cups and the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Gabon.
The fixture against Senegal could prove to be of added significance for the 66-year-old Mashaba as there were strong suggestions that SAFA recently held a behind-closed-doors meeting last week with it seemingly being the opportune time to relieve Mashaba of his role as head coach, given there is a seven-month break until the next competitive fixture in August 2017.
SAFA president, Danny Jordaan, recently criticised Bafana's performance during their AFCON 2017 qualifying campaign with no home victories recorded, also scoring just one goal. Jordaan also warned the team that their poor form could not continue into the 2018 World Cup qualifiers as the country deserves to be involved in soccer's greatest showpiece.
Mashaba's record as national team coach does not make for good reading with his team constantly being plagued by inconsistency and a lack of a transparent vision and outline.
Upon being appointed in July 2014, Mashaba released a statement which in part read: "The goal of taking Bafana Bafana back to the top is very achievable. The good thing about this job is that I have a clear idea of what I need to do," he said.
Fast-forward to the present day and many would struggle to decipher exactly what that clear vision is and could argue that the team now is in a worse position that when he took the reins.
Mashaba has often been heard publicly speaking of his "vision 2022" especially after a poor performance, in a way to assure the nation that there is a greater plan at work. However his selection policy quite clearly contradicts this with there being no clear philosophy to how our national team plays, or which young players are being groomed to achieve his vision.
The current squad's average age at the World Cup in two years' time will be 29, which isn't bad as players usually peak around that age. A closer look though at individual ages reveal that 12 players will be 30 and over when the World Cup kicks off.
When Owen da Gama was given the task of selecting three over-aged based players for the Olympic Games, many experts struggled to name who our three best national players were, due to the inconsistency in selection.
A Sport24 source disclosed that too often in South African football, form is just one of the many aspects taken into consideration when selecting a player for the national team.
Fans who often are left dumbfounded at why a certain player who is an obvious choice to be selected or start a game hasn't. Kamohelo Makotjo is just one case who immediately springs to mind. Sport24 understands that rumours are rife in local soccer circles with players often stating that coaches collude with agents to select their players while taking a cut of the player's wages.
A player who has asked to remain anonymous and who made appearances in the PSL told Sport24 that this is a common occurrence in SA soccer. "Sometimes at a domestic level the player isn't even aware of what's going on as the coach and agent strike a deal that sees the coach receive a monthly cut of the player's salary, to be selected, with the coach enlisting the club to pay the agent's fees.
"There are the top players that the coach needs and often walks into certain teams, but with the players who aren't guaranteed starters, that is when agents become desperate and find ways for their players to be selected," the source said.
These coaches would then also receive a fee when players selected move to other clubs domestically or abroad, after being put in the shop window by a coach. A look through the squad and who represents certain players sees the same agents appear on that list repeatedly. Also Mashaba's right-hand man, Owen da Gama has previously been investigated while at Platinum Stars for requesting payments from players to in turn be selected.
Mashaba has been resolutely backed publicly by SAFA only to see him tighten the noose around his neck with poor performances and bust-ups with players.
Mokotjo, who plays in Holland and was voted this week as the Eredivisie's Player of the Week, has previously criticised Mashaba for failing to select him, citing a personal grudge against the player.
There is a long list of bust-ups that Mashaba has had with foreign-based players with many feeling disillusioned with his management style and tactical knowledge on the game.
It was previously reported by TimesLive that Mashaba, instead of using a tactics board to illustrate tactical changes, used water bottles to get his point across to players. An unnamed player said that they themselves spoke about team tactics with little or no help from the coach.
Mashaba also this week said that he had watched videos of Senegal on his mobile phone, which makes him look outdated and unprofessional compared to other teams who use an opposition scout.
He however seems to be feeling the pressure as decisions to include Ronwen Williams and Daine Klate in his most recent squad came only after criticism from Williams himself and Bidvest Wits coach Gavin Hunt.
Instead of also nurturing a striker or a select few strikers, Mashaba has called up Veldwijk who seems likely to be thrown in at the deep end, after the striker himself admitted that he had never set foot in South Africa before. The jury is still out on whether his inclusion will prove a masterstroke or another mistake.
The fixture against Senegal will prove to be a significant one for the future of SA soccer as victory could give Bafana Bafana much needed confidence for a successful qualifying campaign, or it could prove to be a moment when SAFA finally needs to put action to its promise of "vision 2022."