2018 World Cup: Mashaba names South Africa squad
South Africa coach Ephraim 'Shakes' Mashaba has announced a squad of 25 players to face Burkina Faso in a 2018 World Cup qualifier on 8 Ocotber.
The announcement seems to end recent speculation about his future as Bafana Bafana coach.
Mashaba had come under pressure after South Africa's failure to reach the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations finals.
After the qualifier in Ouagadougou the squad will return home to play Ghana in a friendly in Durban three days later.
The coach has made several changes to the squad that drew 1-1 with Mauritania in their final Nations Cup qualifier in September and then beat Egypt 1-0 in the annual Nelson Mandela Challenge match.
Erick Mathoho returns after he missed the two matches as he recovered from an injury he picked up at the Rio Olympics.
Also making his comeback is fellow defender Rivaldo Coetzee, who withdrew from the matches due to illness.
Mashaba says a positive start is crucial in the opening match.
"Anything other than a win in Burkina Faso will have us playing catch up and it is never an easy task for any country," said Mashaba told the South Africa Football Association's website.
"We must also ensure that we win our home games as anything less will not be enough to get us to Russia.
We know we are carrying the hopes of the entire nation as we embark on these qualifiers, which go hand in hand with pressure, but then again it is part of the territory.
"But we are feeling very positive about the mission ahead. We have tweaked the team a bit to give it some freshness and we are confident we will do well."
Senegal and Cape Verde are the other two teams in Group D of World Cup qualifying with only the group winners advancing to Russia.
South Africa squad:
Goalkeepers: Jackson Mabokgwane and Brighton Mhlongo (both Orlando Pirates), IItumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs)
Defenders: Ramahlwe Mphahlele (Kaizer Chiefs), Rivaldo Coetzee (Ajax Cape Town), Thulani Hlatshwayo (Bidvest Wits), Abbubaker Mobara (Orlando Pirates), Diamond Thopola (Chippa United), Tebogo Langerman (Mamelodi Sundowns), Eric Mathoho (Kaizer Chiefs), Thabo Matlaba (Orlando Pirates)
Midfielders: Dean Furman (SuperSport United), May Mahlangu (Dinamo Bucuresti, Romania), Thulani Serero (Ajax Amsterdam, Netherlands), Oupa Manyisa (Orlando Pirates), Ayanda Patosi (Lokeren, Belgium), Keagan Dolly (Mamelodi Sundowns), Maphosa Modiba (SuperSport United), Mpho Makola (Orlando Pirates), Hlompho Kekana (Mamelodi Sundowns)
Forwards: Eleazar Rodgers (Bidvest Wits), Thamsanqa Gabuza (Orlando Pirates), Thobani Mcwango (Polokwane City), Sibusiso Vilakazi (Mamelodi Sundowns), Tokelo Rantie (Gençlerbirliği, Turkey)