South Africa vs Zimbabwe Preview: Fifa World Cup qualifier

Bafana Bafana counting on recent good form as they eye maximum points in Bloemfontein  

Match Background: Can Bafana Bafana benefit from home comforts?

South Africa will hope to benefit from home comforts yet again when they take on Zimbabwe in their fourth 2026 World Cup qualifier.

Bafana Bafana recorded a 1-1 draw in Nigeria last Friday which has given coach Hugo Broos confidence heading into the match against the Warriors.

Broos’ side are third in a tight Group C on four points, same as Rwanda and Benin, with Lesotho the surprise leaders on five. Nigeria have three points from as many matches while Zimbabwe are on two.

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It therefore makes Tuesday’s match in Bloemfontein a must-win for both sides as South Africa need maximum points to stay in touch with their rivals while Zimbabwe cannot afford a loss as that will all but end their hopes, even this early in the qualifying phase.

South Africa started their qualifying journey with a 2-1 home win against Benin before a shock 2-0 loss away to Rwanda and after achieving their target of at least a draw in Nigeria, Broos and his men will be confident of maximum points at home which will take them to seven points in Group C.

Head-to-head – Form favours South Africa but history gives Zimbabwe hope

While form and pedigree favour South Africa, Zimbabwe have not been an easy opponent for Bafana Bafana over the years as they have an identical record.

In 17 meetings dating back to 1992, South Africa have won seven, same as the Warriors, with three matches ending in a stalemate.

The last time the two southern African rivals faced off was in November 2021 when South Africa won 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier.

That was the first victory for South Africa against Zimbabwe in five attempts after losing three, drawing one and winning one of their five previous meetings.

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However, heading into the meeting in Bloemfontein, South Africa can feel confident given they are undefeated in their last four matches across all competitions while the Warriors last tasted victory in January 2022.

They lost their last two games against modest opposition in Lesotho and Kenya, although they are likely to put on a defensive display, as witnessed in their goalless draw with Rwanda before a 1-1 stalemate against Nigeria.

What they said – Broos looking for maximum points at home but Tapera has promised to make life difficult for Bafana

Broos was visibly happy with the draw in Uyo although he will feel disappointed that his team did not take maximum points from the clash given the opportunities they wasted before the Super Eagles turned on the style later.

“Normally when you see the draw you know that Nigeria is going to be the opponent to be first in the group. When you come here you hope to have a minimum of one point or not to lose the match which was important for us,” Broos said after the 1-1 draw in Uyo.

“I said before the match that pressure was on Nigeria because they have three successive draws and you know in the qualifiers you need to win your home games. For us we are happy with the point.”

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Hugo Broos, head coach of South Africa during the South Africa Press Conference at Charles Konan Stadium in Yamoussoukro on the 02 February 2024 – Photo by Icon Sport

His Zimbabwean counterpart Jairos Tapera was visibly frustrated to lose to minnows Lesotho, bemoaning defensive errors that saw them concede two first half goals, but vowed to right those wrongs against Bafana Bafana.

“The loss is history and against Bafana Bafana, it is a different game altogether. I am sure we might perform differently against Bafana Bafana,” said Tapera.

“I am very much disappointed with the two goals we conceded in the first half. I am not happy at all. Those were basic defensive errors that we could have avoided.”

Players to watch: Who will make a difference in Bloemfontein?

A lot has been said about star forwards Percy Tau and Lyle Foster, with the former coming in for criticism yet again following his less than impressive outing against Nigeria, but the two will be crucial to South Africa gaining maximum points.

Broos fielded Iqraam Rayners alongside Themba Zwane upfront on Friday, with the latter grabbing a goal, but that was down to the need to counter Nigeria’s attacking threats. Against Zimbabwe, Tau and Foster will likely start up top with Mshishi pulling the strings in the No.10 role.

Percy Tau and Zwane

For Zimbabwe, Nantes striker Tino Kadewere will pose a big threat to the Bafana Bafana defence with his pace and physical presence.

The forward will be the most advanced player for Zimbabwe who will sit deep and opt to hit South Africa on the counter attack.

Midfielder Walter Musona is another player to watch given he has an eye for goal. He has two goals in their last four matches and shocked Nigeria when he broke the deadlock against the Super Eagles on matchday one.

Probable XI: How might the teams line up?

South Africa probable XI: Ronwen Williams; Aubrey Modiba, Khuliso Mudau, Mothobi Mvala, Siyabonga Ngezana; Teboho Mokoena, Spephelo Sithole, Bathusi Aubaas, Themba Zwane; Lyle Foster, Percy Tau

Zimbabwe probable XI: Bernard Donovan; Andrew Mbeba, Teenage Hadebe, Gerald Takwara, Divine Lunga; Andy Rinomhota, Tymon Machope, Marshall Munetsi; Walter Musona, Tino Kadewere, Daniel Msendami

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Joel Oliver

Joel Oliver is a seasoned multimedia sports journalist with a rich background in covering diverse football stories and events in South Africa and beyond.

His extensive coverage spans subjects touching on the PSL, with a focus on the Big Three (Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs & Mamelodi Sundowns), Bafana Bafana and Banyana Banyana.