Mkhize ‘happy’ af­ter Bafana call

Diamond Fields Advertiser - - SPORT - ROD­NEY REINERS SOC­CER WRITER

ONE MAN’S mis­for­tune is an­other’s op­por­tu­nity, which is why Cape Town City right-back Thami Mkhize is hop­ing to make the most of his be­lated call-up to the Bafana Bafana squad to tackle Sey­chelles in a 2019 Africa Cu p of Na­tions (Afcon) qual­i­fier at the FNB Sta­dium in Jo­han­nes­burg on Satur­day af­ter­noon (3pm).

The op­por­tu­nity may be via the back door, but it is cer­tainly well de­served and over­due. With an in­jury to Mamelodi Sun­downs’ Thapelo Morena, Bafana head coach Stu­art Bax­ter this week drafted Mkhize in as a late re­place­ment.

Mkhize has two pre­vi­ous ap­pear­ances for Bafana, but he has re­cently been ig­nored by Bax­ter. De­spite the City de­fender be­ing among the most con­sis­tent per­form­ers, the Bafana coach has al­ways pre­ferred Kaizer Chiefs’ Ramahlwe Mphahlele on the right side of the na­tional side’s de­fence. In Bafana’s pre­vi­ous match – a 0-0 draw with Libya – Mphahlele’s per­for­mance didn’t in­spire too much con­fi­dence. There had been sug­ges­tions that Bax­ter would look more closely at Mkhize for the clash with Sey­chelles – but, when the team was an­nounced, the City man was again a no­table omis­sion.

Now, with Morena in­jured, Bax­ter had no choice but to get Mkhize in – and, while be­lated, the player’s pres­ence will have a pos­i­tive ef­fect on Bafana.

“I ac­cept this call-up with grat­i­tude,” said Mkhize. “Any op­por­tu­nity to rep­re­sent my coun­try is some­thing I will al­ways take great pride in. We’ve got a big task on our hands. I will do all I can to help Bafana over the line. That’s my na­ture, and I’m sure the other play­ers in the Bafana squad also feel this way.”

Mkhize’s ca­reer has re­ally soared over the last two years. It’s as­tound­ing to be­lieve that, be­fore he ar­rived at City in Septem­ber 2016, his ca­reer had al­most stalled. From Cato Ridge in KZN, and hav­ing played for clubs like Golden Ar­rows and Mar­itzburg United, he was on the verge of a high-pro­file trans­fer to Or­lando Pi­rates. The move fell through, though, and Mkhize was left club­less and un­sure of his fu­ture. It was at this time that City stepped in and per­suaded the de­fender to join the then newly-es­tab­lished PSL club in 2016. Ini­tially, he was signed as de­fen­sive cover, to add some depth to the team, but, as soon as he got his op­por­tu­nity, he rapidly demon­strated his com­mit­ment and abil­ity, and be­came a reg­u­lar in the start­ing team.

The ar­rival of Benni Mc­Carthy as City coach then el­e­vated the sta­tus of Mkhize even more. Al­ways a tough tack­ler and a supreme de­fender, the new coach has im­proved the right-back’s at­tack­ing game. Now Mkhize is a reg­u­lar pres­ence bomb­ing for­ward in of­fence and putting in crosses for the for­wards to get on the end of. Mc­Carthy was so im­pressed with the ded­i­ca­tion and team ethic of Mkhize that, when skip­per Robyn Jo­hannes joined Bid­vest Wits this sea­son, the next man in line for the City cap­taincy was a no-brainer: Mkhize.

Now, all Mkhize wants is just to en­joy his time with Bafana. He won’t be the only City player in the squad as he joins cen­tral mid­fielder Thabo No­dada, who has been called up by Bafana for the first time. Mkhize is happy for No­dada; he be­lieves his team­mate’s hard work has fi­nally paid off and he fully de­serves be­ing in the squad.

“I’m very happy for Thabo (No­dada),” said Mkhize. “He’s a real fighter; he de­serves to be in the Bafana squad as well. I know he will con­trib­ute im­mensely if given the op­por­tu­nity to play.”

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