Africa has to swiftly whittle down the number of competitors from 54 nations to 20 in the space of two months.
Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune's handling error during their match with Mauritania has overshadowed our rugby team's transformation issues.
South Africa's Africa Cup of Nations defeat in Mauritania this weekend was a blow to the country.
On paper, Mashaba's men should win but this is a tie fraught with potential pitfalls, not least those of South Africa's own making.
SA paired with Angola. It is the only one of 20 second-round ties featuring two former qualifiers with Angola shock participants in 2006 tournament.
Cameroon is the biggest obstacle on the path to Afcon, but two minnows could pull out a surprise.
SA have fallen prey to Nigeria many times, but now have a chance to down the wounded Super Eagles.
After the African Nations Cup debacle, Shakes seems to have no choice but to bring back Bafana's brash foreign-based players.
South Africa's campaign ended with a single point from three outings, which was more than enough to send Ghana and Algeria to the second round.
"There is no way we cannot feel the pressure. But everyone is under pressure, even the opposition," coach Shakes Mashaba said.
Bafana has what it takes to win but their technical team is ignoring the finer points of their game.
Tournament favourite Algeria avoided an unpleasant surprise at the African Cup of Nations on Monday, while four-time champion Ghana did not.
Despite a history of losing their Afcon opening matches, Bafana Bafana are determined to topple Algeria, Africa's top-ranked team, in Monday's match.
Form rates Cameroon, Tunisia and Senegal as the sides to watch, but African rankings point to Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana as champs.
Shakes Mashaba's regime has generated optimism around Bafana Bafana for the first time in more than a decade, but it is unclear if this is justified.
South Africa kicks off in an Afcon group of death, of which the opponents are at least aware. Safa however is already happy with the placement alone.
Fifa and the South African authorities have shown little interest in confronting a scandal that weighs on Bafana's image.
Bafana coach Sahes Mashaba has confidence that Bafana Bafana will get through to the next round, despite a difficult draw.