A huge sporting weekend for South Africa could yet end in twin-pronged success for the Rainbow Nation’s rugby and football teams.
Though the Springboks face a daunting task overcoming Australia in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals on Sunday morning in Wellington, Bafana Bafana face a seemingly impossible task in qualifying for the African Nations Cup on Saturday night.
With group leaders Niger set to face an Egypt Under 23 side – new coach Bob Bradley from the US is unlikely to encourage a major upset – South Africa’s clash with Sierra Leone becomes almost meaningless in terms of qualifying as Group G leaders.
But the message to Pitso Mosimane’s men in Nelspruit tomorrow night is clear: Win by five or six and qualification as one of two “best runners-up” could yet be gained.
This morning the extremely capable Minister of Sport and Recreation, Filkile “Bliksem Hulle” Mbalula confirmed the the game will be televised live on the SABC1 at 5pm on Saturday evening after a payment of £3m to SAFA. It’s a must-watch... a must-win – even if Niger beat Egypt to clinch the group.
Here’s how it works: The ten group leaders qualify automatically but (whisper it) the two best runners-up will also travel to the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations finals.
It’s a complicated formula where matches against the bottom sides in the pool – seven-times winners Egypt in Group G - do not count. CAF were forced to make that move after Mauritania withdrew from Group F, leaving them with just three teams in the pool.
Consquently, South Africa’s hard-fought home win over the Pharoahs, courtesy of Katlego Mphela’s last-minute strike, and the away draw in Cairo will NOT count towards Baf Baf’s tally.
That means Pitso’s men go into their final game against Sierra Leone with four points and places them SIXTH in the current table. But a big win over Sierra Leone, coupled with some fairly probable results elsewhere, could leave South Africa in the top two runners-up positions, ensuring qualification.
SuperSport.com offer this explanation of how things can pan out for South Africa if they win in Mpumalanga and move to seven points:
Sudan (seven points from three games): Sudan play Ghana at home and a defeat will see South Africa move above them on goal difference. A draw will see Sudan retain their place above Bafana, while a win will mean Ghana finish second in the pool with seven points and it will come down to goal difference as well (Ghana are currently on +5).
Libya (seven points from three games): Libya are away in Zambia where a defeat would see Bafana move ahead of them. A draw will mean Libya maintain their position ahead of Bafana, while a win for them against the Zambians would move Chipolopolo to second but with only six points and below Bafana.
Angola (six points from four games): Angola cannot improve their points tally as they play wooden-spoonists Guinea Bissau, so Bafana would move ahead of them with a win.
Central African Republic (five points from four games): These calculations assume that Morocco will beat Tanzania at home. If CAR then draw in Algeria, they will finish second in the pool with six points and behind Bafana. If they lose in Algeria by more than two goals, the Algerians will rise to second and will have six points. If CAR win in Algeria then they will stay on six points as Algeria will finish bottom and the points from the match will not count towards their tally.
Nigeria (four points from three matches): If Nigeria beat Guinea at home 1-0 or by two clear goals then they will top their Group B and Guinea will drop to second with nine points and above Bafana (that is unless Madagascar pull off a highly unlikely win in Ethiopia which would drop Ethiopia to seven points). If Nigeria draw at home they will stay second with five points. If Nigeria lose, they remain on four points.
Zimbabwe (four points from three matches): If Zimbabwe win in Cape Verde and Mali win in Liberia, then Zimbabwe will finish second on seven points, and would need to boost their goal-difference by winning by three clear goals. If Zimbabwe draw in Cape Verde they can still only finish second and would have five points. If Zimbabwe win and Mali draw or lose in Liberia, they will drop to second and at best can finish with six points, below Bafana.
HOW THEY STAND
Grp Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
I Sudan 3 2 1 0 3 0 +3 7
C Libya 3 2 1 0 2 0 +2 7
J Angola 4 2 0 2 4 5 -1 6
D CAR 4 1 2 1 3 3 0 5
B Nigeria 3 1 1 1 6 3 +3 4
G South Africa 3 1 1 1 3 2 +1 4
A Zimbabwe 3 1 1 1 2 2 0 4
F Gambia 3 1 0 2 4 5 –1 3
H Burundi 3 0 2 1 2 3 –1 2
E Cameroon 3 0 2 1 1 2 –1 2