This evening the ’Lion of Judah’ needs to roar the loudest for his nation as Bafana Bafana host Ghana in a crucial Afcon qualifier.
JOHANNESBURG – You have to give it to Percy Tau. He has embraced the national team jersey since making his Bafana Bafana debut in a 2016 Africa Nations Championship qualifier. But, perhaps, it is this evening that the “Lion of Judah” needs to roar the loudest for his nation.
Bafana will host Ghana at FNB Stadium in the penultimate round of the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers. The South Africans are second in Group C with nine points, level with Ghana and three points ahead of third-placed Sudan.
All three teams are still within a chance of qualifying for the finals in Cameroon next year, but only the top two will qualify. Bafana, though, have their sights fixed on not only securing qualification, but finishing top of the group as well.
And that’s why Molefi Ntseki’s team will know the importance of beating four-time Afcon champions, Ghana. They would go three points clear at the top with a game to spare against Sudan at Al Hilal Stadium in Omduman on Sunday.
A fully-fit and in-form Tau has shown big-match temperament. During the 2019 Afcon qualifiers, the then 24-year-old Tau dragged Bafana to the continental showpiece, churning out a five-star performance in the last two qualifiers against Nigeria and Libya.
He didn’t score during the 1-1 draw with the Super Eagles at home, but if it was not for his majestic footwork to set-up Lebo Mothiba, perhaps there wouldn’t have been a Bafana goal. Away at a neutral venue in Sfax, Tunisia, Tau scored a brace against Libya to send Bafana to Egypt.
Tau ensured that the South Africans punched above their weight and reached the quarter-finals of the biennial continental showpiece, where they were knocked out by Nigeria. He was on top of his game, earning himself a move to English Premier League side Birghton & Hove Albion.
Tau has been crucial for Bafana in the last two qualifiers where they trounced islanders Sao Tome and Principe 6-2. He scored three goals.
That contribution slightly changed the narrative that Bafana tend to stutter when they meet so-called small teams.
But a lot has happened since then. Our Lion is down, but we believe he’s not out. And given such an opportunity to play against the mighty Black Stars it will revive his hunger and hunt for more prey once again – Afcon and a place in the starting line-up at club level.
Tau has endured a frustrating spell at Brighton since returning from loan at Anderlecht. He has spent more time on the bench than on the pitch, given his last appearance for Brighton was early last month in the FA Cup.
The availability of Tau for Thursday’s game is not only a boost for him, but for Ntseki as well. Four of Bafana’s nine overseas-based players who were called up to the initial squad were denied permission to report to camp in South Africa, with their clubs citing concerns around Covid-19.
Bongani Zungu and Keagan Dolly who are playing in Scotland and France will join the team for the last qualifier in Sudan, while Dean Furman and Thulani Serero who are based in England and Abu Dhabi will not report for either game.
Ntseki, as a result, has had to add five new faces to the squad, adding Lebohang Maboe, Thabiso Kutumela, Vincent Pule, Thabo Nodada and Mothobi Mvala. But there’s no doubt the hopes of beating Ghana will rest on Tau.
However, no man is an island. Tau needs the help of the technical team and his teammates in order to inspire the team to the promised land – Afcon – once again!