Nigeria vs South Africa: 5 players to watch out for

Nigeria host rivals South Africa at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo this Friday as both teams seek to improve on an underwhelming start to the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers that has allowed lowly Rwanda to steal a march on them in Group C.

With no shortage of talent on both sides, we analyse the five players who could swing the game either way.

Nigeria vs South Africa: players to keep an eye on

Alex Iwobi

Nigeria's last internationals saw Alex Iwobi deployed further forward than he usually is, and coach Finidi George's faith was repaid.

Iwobi got a fine assist against Ghana—his first direct goal involvement for the Super Eagles since June 2022—and performed creditably even in the subsequent defeat to Mali.

Now he would look to translate that to competitive football, and the duel with South Africa provides a stage grand enough to do just that.

Nigeria vs South Africa
Photo by Icon Sport

Ronwen Williams

Williams was arguably South Africa's best player at the last Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). The goalkeeper and skipper came up clutch in two shootouts to help his country secure bronze, but while there will be no such scenarios in Uyo—save the possibility of the odd penalty kick—expect the Mamelodi Sundowns man to prove decisive in his team's efforts to thwart Nigeria's potent attack.

Victor Boniface

Victor Boniface has not been part of Nigeria's squad since November last year. While he was named in Peseiro's AFCON squad, the Bayer Leverkusen forward was sidelined due to an injury.

But he returns now, on the back of a very successful first season at Leverkusen, and is likely to lead the line in the absence of namesake Victor Osimhen.

Having registered 31 goals/assists en route to helping his club win both of Germany's elite domestic competitions and nearly wrapping up a historic unbeaten treble, Boniface would be confident of at least doubling his tally of one international goal and making up for lost time.

Nigeria vs South Africa
Photo by Icon Sport

Percy Tau

Fresh from winning a second CAF Champions League trophy in three seasons with Egyptian giants Al Ahly, Tau would be feeling particularly invigorated for this crunch fixture.

In a game that might not produce so many goals, the decisive moments would likely come from players capable of the sort of class we have come to expect from Tau, and Bafana Bafana boss Hugo Broos would be hoping his star man can work his magic.

Ademola Lookman

Is there a hotter Nigerian forward right now? Lookman had enjoyed a decent enough 2023/24 season with Atalanta, his Italian employers, but he definitely turbo-charged his performances towards the end of the campaign—starting, of course, with the famous, match-winning hat-trick he delivered in the UEFA Europa League final a couple of weeks ago against Leverkusen.

He followed it up with two goals and an assist in Atalanta's last two Serie A games, and arrives in the Nigerian camp in blistering form.

With four goals in his last six games for the country, Lookman looks like the threat South Africa would be most wary of.

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Godfred Budu

Godfred Budu, a Ghanaian sports journalist, brings a dynamic perspective to the field with over a decade of experience. Having contributed to esteemed platforms such as Kickgh.com and Inkandkicks.com. Godfred is recognised for his insightful commentary and in-depth analysis of African football.
His passion for storytelling and commitment to accuracy have established him as a trusted authority in sports journalism in Ghana, captivating audiences with his engaging narratives and unparalleled expertise.
Godfred holds a degree in Integrated Development Studies (Social and Development Administration option) from the University for Development Studies, Ghana.