Johannesburg - Bafana Bafana are sweating over the fitness of defender Eric Mathoho ahead of their 2018 Russia World Cup qualifier match on Saturday.
South Africa take on Burkina Faso in Ouagadougou at 20:00 South African time. Mathoho limped off during Kaizer Chiefs’ 2-0 win over Free State Stars on Wednesday.
Bafana have already lost Ajax Cape Town defender Rivaldo Coetzee to a hamstring injury.
Both central defenders missed Bafana’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Mauritania and a subsequent friendly against Egypt in August.
Mathoho has just returned after recovering from the ankle injury he sustained while on national duty at the Rio Olympic Games in August. The injury forced him to miss the crucial Under-23 final game against Iraq, which ended 1-1.
It would be a big blow for the team to lose Mathoho, whose aerial prowess would come in handy against the physical and tough west Africans.
But coach Shakes Mashaba was optimistic that the tall defender would make it. Mashaba has emphasised the importance of a positive start in this qualifier.
After failing to qualify for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon, the coach will not only be playing for three points in Ouagadougou, but also to secure his future.
He is under pressure to deliver on his second mandate of booking a ticket at the World Cup finals. He will be hoping that none of the six players involved in Saturday's MTN8 final get injured, leaving his side depleted.
While Mamelodi Sundowns had four players – Hlompho Kekana, Tebogo Langerman, Sibusiso Vilakazi and Keagan Dolly – Bidvest Wits had Thulani Hlatshwayo, who captained the team in their last two games and striker Eleazar Rodgers, who could be thrown in because of his aerial advantage.
The good thing is that most players came out unscathed from their games on Tuesday and Wednesday and were not active this weekend. Pirates have most players in the team with seven players, while Kaizer Chiefs have only three.
The Stallions should have inside information on Bafana after picking two PSL-based players in Issouf Paro, who plays for National First Division side Santos and Robert Sankara of Bloemfontein Celtic.
They also have former Chippa United striker Aristide Bancé. But their main threat will come from the skilful Jonathan Pitroipa of Al Nasr in the United Arab Emirates.