Cape Town – The heartbeat of African football will reach fever pitch in Mzansi on Thursday when two World Cup qualifiers take place in the space of six hours in Soweto and its neighbouring suburb Nasrec.
Ethiopia and Ghana will set the scene with a 3pm fixture at Orlando Stadium, the home of Orlando Pirates. The ground was hand-picked by Ethiopia after their venue, the Bahir Dar International Stadium, was declared unfit to host the match.
Ghana's noses may still be out of joint because they objected to playing in South Africa. To add to their woes, they could be without their goalscoring superstar Arsenal's Thomas Partey, who picked up an injury in a weekend clash against Watford.
In another setback, their Bordeaux defender Gideon Mensah has been ruled out after suffering an ankle injury against Paris Saint-Germain at the weekend. Ethiopia are already out of the running, and it remains to be seen whether their ambitions go beyond playing for national pride.
Ghana's 'Black Stars' have over many years affirmed their position as a powerhouse on the Mother Continent and are favourites to win the match. If as expected Ghana wins, it will fire up South Africa's hitherto all-conquering Bafana Bafana for their clash, six hours later, and just 10 kilometres away at the FNB Stadium.
If Ghana loses, Bafana Bafana's World Cup qualifying hopes will glow red hot.
Bafana Bafana will run out against neighbours Zimbabwe who are also out of the running to reach the final qualifying round. Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos has made an interesting observation about the Zimbabwean team that will be in action at 'The Calabash'.
Broos sounded a note of caution, saying it appears that Zimbabwe may not have chosen their best players.
"Let's focus on the Zimbabwe game, which will be tricky, especially when you see their team selection," said Broos.
"There are some key players who are not part of their squad. I think the coach may have chosen players to perhaps prepare his team for the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations.
"When you give players a chance to prove themselves, they could lift their game. I know they will do it because an African player needs to feature at an Afcon tournament.
"We have to be ready because we have to win this game. It will put us in a comfortable situation in which the pressure stays with Ghana then."
If both Ghana and Bafana Bafana wins, the Group G qualifying will go down to the wire when they clash on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Broos has had to field media questions about Mamelodi Sundowns defender Rushine de Reuck who has been a key player in the earlier qualifying matches. Of late the Cape Town-born De Reuck has been relegated to Sundowns' substitutes bench.
"I do not see a reason why I should doubt Rushine now," said Broos. "Okay, he did not play league since (he played for Bafana against) Ethiopia. I think that in the first game he was a little bit injured and then in the other two games, the (Sundowns) coach chose someone else.
"That is not a reason for me to doubt the qualities of Rushine. He has done very well in all the (Bafana Bafana) games, so it is no problem for me."