Can Nigeria's John Ogu take his opportunity against Bafana?

John Ogu is a strong physical presence on the field for Nigeria, when he gets a chance to play. Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

For the first time since September 2015, Nigeria approach a match without any of their three first-choice midfielders in a matchday squad.

Not since a 0-0 draw against Tanzania and a 2-0 victory over Niger three years ago have the Super Eagles been without all of John Obi Mikel, Ogenyi Onazi and Wilfred Ndidi, but that's exactly the situation they find themselves in for this weekend's Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against South Africa.

Mikel misses out on showdown in Johannesburg due to a personal decision, Onazi's dwindling form appears to have cost him, while Ndidi played himself out of the crunch tie by getting suspended.

The unavailability of the tried and tested trio should present a long overdue opportunity for John Ogu to be in the spotlight and earn the recognition his talent deserves after playing second fiddle for the majority of his international career.

The physically imposing Hapoel Be'er Sheva midfielder made his debut at 25 and has amassed 19 appearances in five years.

Despite his obvious qualities and superb technical ability, Ogu has constantly found himself playing in the shadows of competitors and having to win over new international managers.

Nevertheless Ogu remains focused on working harder and earning a regular spot.

"I know it's frustrating because I want to play, but I also understand the coach has a job to do," Ogu told BBC Sport.

"We have a great squad, as a footballer I always want to fight for my country on the pitch all the time, he added, "but the country and team comes before an individual so I will keep working hard to get my chance."

Perhaps Ogu's similar style to Mike has counted against him, although the due did play together against Uruguay in the 2013 Confederations Cup and against Argentina in November 2017's international friendly.

However, even Mikel's absence since the World Cup hasn't led to more opportunities, with Gernot Rohr preferring to hand creative responsibilities to Alex Iwobi.

Onazi was also restored to the line-up after losing his spot on the eve of the tournament.

To his credit, Ogu hasn't been disillusioned by the setback, but has cemented a role for himself as a useful squad option.

His exemplary attitude and commitment to the Super Eagles should arguably have seen him an even bigger role, and he demonstrated his qualities - memorably - against Algeria in the World Cup qualifying dead rubber in Constantine.

A year after netting a stunner against the Desert Foxes, Ogu may be expecting to play a different role on the pitch in this weekend's showdown in Johannesburg.

With Ndidi absent, Ogu is expected to be the starting holding midfielder alongside Oghenekaro Etebo, who should continue functioning in his box-to-box role.

Despite insisting on defensive midfield being his preferred position, Ogu hasn't had the opportunity of been fielded in that role prior to this moment, due to a preference among coaches for Onazi, Fegor Ogude and Wilfred Ndidi.

Considering the altitude at the FNB Stadium, Nigeria may well tire in the second half against Bafana, a situation which may well require a steady hand in the heart of the park.

He performed a similar role in a cameo appearance in Sfax, where his introduction stabilised a midfield that was in the process of a total collapse.

Playing alongside the much younger pair of Iwobi and Etebo, Ogu will be expected to use his vast experience to breakdown the Bafana attacks in front of the defence, dominate aerially and on the ground.

Equally, he will be required to utilise his excellent stamina to close down space, possibly make a few of his excellent long-range shots rattle Itumeleng Khune, and generally provide leadership to a young team that could easily crumble under constant pressure and an intimidating home support.

There could be no bigger opportunity for the likeable personality to finally prove that he ought to be regarded as more than just a squad member for Nigeria.

By excelling in the absence of his favoured competitors, he could possibly hand Rohr a major selection headache heading into the New Year.