Khu­malo a fu­ture cap­tain

An ad­mirable World Cup dis­play may be the mak­ing of Mokoena’s suc­ces­sor

Weekend Witness - - Sport - MARC STRY­DOM in Jo­han­nes­burg

ON the strength of his show­ings at the World Cup, his lead­er­ship po­ten­tial and his qual­ity as a de­fender, Bon­gani Khu­malo looks set to be a fu­ture cap­tain of Bafana Bafana.

Khu­malo emerged late as the player to part­ner cur­rent Bafana cap­tain Aaron Mokoena in cen­tral de­fence at the World Cup, but will not look back af­ter a stirling tour­na­ment.

The strongly-built Su­perS­port United de­fender had two world-class games in the 1-1 draw against Mex­ico and 2-1 vic­tory against France, mark­ing some of the world’s most threat­en­ing for­wards.

With the com­posed man­ner in which he made timely chal­lenges and shep­herded pacy for­wards such as Mex­ico’s Gio­vani Dos Santos and Car­los Vela and Les Bleus’s Franck Ribery and Djib­ril Cisse, Khu­malo is sure to find him­self Europe-bound be­fore the World Cup.

In the 3-0 de­feat against Uruguay, Khu­malo and the rest of his de­fence were left ex­posed by a poor mid­field show­ing, while his in­ex­pe­ri­ence saw him strug­gling to deal with Ajax Am­s­ter­dam goal ace Luis Suarez.

Mokoena is 29 now and an­other up-and­com­ing cen­tral de­fender, La­montville Golden Ar­rows’ Siyabonga Sang­weni, is threat­en­ing to dis­place the skip­per in cen­tral de­fence in the not-so-dis­tant fu­ture.

Who­ever takes over from Car­los Al­berto Par­reira af­ter the World Cup — the con­sen­sus seems that it will be cur­rent as­sis­tant Pitso Mosi­mane — might be on the look­out for a new cap­tain as Bafana build for Brazil in 2014.

It seems pos­si­ble Khu­malo, well-spo­ken and in­tel­li­gent, so­phis­ti­cated in deal­ing with the me­dia, and po­ten­tially a big player for the fu­ture, might get that role.

The cen­tral de­fender was cau­tious af­ter the France vic­tory when asked about the bright fu­ture that ap­pears to lie at his feet.

“It’s one step at a time re­ally. I’ve al­ways wanted to play in Europe, in the top leagues and with the best play­ers, and also ob­vi­ously in the Cham­pi­ons League,” Khu­malo said.

“That’s what the game’s all about — that stage. I’m hop­ing there will be op­por­tu­ni­ties to try and be­gin a new jour­ney.”

Khu­malo firmly be­lieves Bafana’s over­all per­for­mance at the World Cup was wor­thy of merit, even a heavy de­feat against Uruguay where ref­er­ee­ing de­ci­sions went against the South Africans.

“I think it [our per­for­mance] was re­ally good,” he said.

“The last game [against Uruguay] looks bad. We­re­ally didn’t play all that badly. Crit­i­cal de­ci­sions went against us and cost us big time.

“But ul­ti­mately I think we did re­ally well. We got four points and nor­mally in a tour­na­ment like this that’s enough.”

The Su­perS­port de­fender agreed with Par­reira’s as­sess­ment that Bafana have been given an iden­tity in train­ing camps in Brazil, Ger­many and at home.

“I be­lieve we do. I think ev­ery­one’s wit­nessed the way we play and the way we de­fend. We work in units and we sup­port each other on the ball, which is very im­por­tant.

“We’ve worked very hard to get that iden­tity, that chem­istry within the team, and we re­ally have to just keep stressed.

Bafana now turn their at­ten­tion to their next task — qual­i­fy­ing for the 2012 African Na­tions Cup in Equa­to­rial Guinea and Gabon from a group that in­cludes Africa’s num­ber one-ranked team, Egypt.

The South Africans open with a home gamea­gainst Niger in Septem­ber, face Egypt at home in March 2011, the Pharaohs away in June, and their fi­nal match is away to their other Group G op­po­nents, Sierra Leone, in Oc­to­ber 2011.

“Home game, Niger, we have to win that one, and not leave things to the last, like we did to­day [against France],” Khu­malo said.

“You don’t want to be go­ing to Egypt hav­ing to get a re­sult be­cause weall know how dif­fi­cult that is. But we’ll give it a good go from the be­gin­ning and I think we should go through.”

Khu­malo scored a world class goal against the French that was an ex­act replica of a strike by Sang­weni in their 1-1 warm-up draw against Bul­garia at Or­lando Sta­dium.

“Yes, we’ve worked on our set pieces,” the de­fender said.“From club level, at Su­perS­port, we score a lot of goals from set pieces. And it was al­ways a ques­tion of why don’t I do the same for the na­tional team. So to­day was re­ally spe­cial.”

it go­ing,” Khu­malo

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