Same old, same old from below-par Bafana Bafana

Stuart Baxter Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

The more things change the more they stay the same for South Africa, whose recent revival has seemingly been ground to a halt after a dismal 2-1 defeat to Cape Verde in a World Cup qualifier in Praia on Friday.

June's excellent 2-0 victory away in Nigeria at the start of the African Nations Cup preliminaries, coupled with some impressive friendly results, showed the rich potential of the side.

But as with other Bafana Bafana teams over the last 15 years or so, they have shown too they have the potential to self-destruct at the most inopportune moments.

A goal to the good following an early opener from Tokelo Rantie, Bafana looked in complete control of the game in Praia for the first 30 minutes, even if they created little else in terms of chances.

However, some hesitant defending allowed Nuno Rocha to score an equaliser and as the home side turned up the pressure, they won a penalty from which Rocha gave them the lead.

Bafana's night was compounded when Eric Mathoho kicked out at an opponent and received a red card, leaving them to play the final quarter with 10 men.

Poor defending, petulance when calm heads are needed ... Bafana fans have seen this movie all too often in the past.

There was hope that coach Stuart Baxter would bring order and organisation to the side, and he still might, but on this showing he has much work to do.

The game again showed the importance of experienced goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune, both for his shot-stopping ability and his defensive organisation.

He was ruled out of this game through illness and replaced by Ronwen Williams, who has endured difficult times in the Bafana goal in the past, and had another night to forget.

He should have saved the penalty having got both hands to the ball, and minutes later spilled a routine catch that almost put Cape Verde in for their third.

Mathoho is on another planet at the moment, and not in a good way. His second red card in as many games after being sent off for Kaizer Chiefs in his last match was a moment of pure stupidity and came after he was in part culpable for both home goals having missed a clearance for the first and been skinned by Ryan Mendes in the build-up to the penalty.

Baxter needs to find an able partner for captain Thulani Hlatshwayo in the centre of the South African defence, not just for Tuesday's home clash with Cape Verde, but going forward.

Mathoho is too slow in thought and movement, and for a tall centre-back is not great in the air either.

However, he was by no means the only below par player on the night -- Lebogang Manyama was abysmal, while Bongani Zungu saw most of the game simply drift by him, he was that ineffective.

To be fair to the players, they were not helped by the artificial surface that made reading the pace of the pass difficult. At times it looked as though both teams were not playing football but rather pinball with neither able to string more than a few passes together.

It is highly likely that South Africa will win on Tuesday on the grass field at the Moses Mabhida Stadium that will suit their passing game, but the damage to their hopes of reaching Russia 2018 may have already been done.

Certainly it now looks likely they need to win all three of their remaining games, home to Cape Verde and Burkina Faso, and away in Senegal.

You get the feeling they are capable of that, but by the same token equally sure that the more likely outcome is that they will drop points somewhere.

Fans had hoped they were witnessing the rebirth of the national side under Baxter, taking the team back to among the leading footballing nations on the continent, but on the evidence of Friday night, that remains a pipe-dream.

The truth is they battle to put two or three quality performances together in a row to give them the momentum they need, but are extremely consistent in their inconsistency.

As a collective they are a fine squad led by a very good coach, but somewhere along the line you know individual mistakes will come along to scupper their dreams.

The loss in Cape Verde was certainly one of those occasions.