Bafana Bafana have received a major boost in their bid to qualify for the World Cup finals in Germany in 2006 after it was decided they would go straight through to the group stage of qualification.
The five teams from Africa who qualified for the 2002 event in Japan and South Korea, South Africa, Nigeria, Cameroon, Senegal and Tunisia, have all received byes through to the second round of qualifying, saving them from potentially tricky knockout games against the likes of Ivory Coast, Egypt or Ghana.
Thirty African countries will be split into five groups of six for 2006 qualifying, with just the top team in each pool going through to the finals.
As an added incentive, and in a bid to reduce the congested international calendar, the top three teams in each group will go through to the African Cup of Nations finals, to be held in Egypt also in 2006.
This is a positive step from the Confederation of African Football and should ease the growing club vs country row in Europe.
The draw for the first round of qualifiers will be made in Paris on Friday.