South Africa national soccer team players jog during a pre-match training session, at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban (Photo: AP)
South Africa are set to change the team that fared woefully in the opening round for an Africa Cup of Nations Group A match against Angola in Durban on Wednesday.
Leaks from the Bafana Bafana (The Boys) camp suggest Dean Furman from English third-tier club Oldham Athletic will return to midfield in place of out-of-sorts Kagisho Dikgacoi from London outfit Crystal Palace.
There could also be a place in the starting line-up for striker Katlego Mphela, probably at the expense of Lehlohonolo Majoro, as the Cup hosts seek an improvement after a 0-0 draw with debutants Cape Verde Islands last weekend.
Many Bafana Bafana supporters would also like to see the one-time darling of the nation, midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala, dumped for the clash with the Black Antelopes before an expected sell-out 60,000 crowd at Moses Mabhida Stadium.
Tshabalala scored a magnificent opening goal at the 2010 World Cup staged in South Africa, rifling a close-range drive past the Mexican goalkeeper in a 1-1 draw.
But 'Shabba' has looked a pale shadow of his former self in recent national team outings with many pundits believing it is his reputation rather than his form that is keeping him in the starting line-up.
Silver-haired coach Gordon Igesund, 56, visibly aged before an 80,000 crowd at wet and cold Soccer City in Soweto last Saturday as his team gave their worst performance of his nine-match reign since replacing Pitso Mosimane.
With Dikgacoi struggling, Bafana Bafana resorted to long balls that were comfortably dealt with by the tall, organised defence of a team carrying the hopes of a group of west African islands with a combined 500,000 population.
Igesund believes the 1996 South Africa Cup of Nations-winning team is casting a huge shadow over his team, which certainly does not look capable so far of repeating that feat.
"There is a lot of talk about the 1996 team -- it is right in our face all the time," admitted the coach who has won a record four South African Premiership titles with four different clubs.
"Our players want to emulate that team, the nation wants the current players to emulate that team, and the stars who won the title 17 years ago want my team to succeed."
Ironically, the South African class of 96 defeated Angola 1-0 in the second round of group games en route to the final, which they won 2-0 against Tunisia thanks to a second-half brace from substitute Mark Williams.
While South Africa have slipped backwards since, Angola have moved in the opposite direction, reaching the 2006 World Cup, and making a fifth consecutive Africa Cup appearance this month.
They held marginal favourites Morocco 0-0 in the second half of the opening round Soweto double-header with lanky striker and captain Manucho coming close to snatching all three points via a late header that finished just off target.
"Our performance against Morocco was satisfactory," said the Spain-based former Manchester United striker. "I came close a few times and it is encouraging that we created chances."
Angola are seeking a first victory over South Africa in the premier African national-team competition having lost in 1996, drawn 0-0 in Burkina Faso two years later and 1-1 in Ghana during the 2008 group phase.
(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports)