Mlambo not wor­ried about Bafana call-up

CityPress - - Sport - SIL­VER SIBIYA sil­[email protected]­press.co.za

the scor­ing by go­ing blind and step­ping a cou­ple of would-be tack­lers, a favour re­turned by the Kiwis’ An­drew Knew­stubb.

While the New Zealan­ders qui­etened the home crowd by go­ing a score ahead, what would have con­cerned the hosts was butcher­ing two reg­u­la­tion switch passes that would have ended up in tries, and the kind of missed one-on-one tackle by Justin Geduld in the build-up to the Kiwis’ sec­ond try that they would nor­mally frown upon.

There was a typ­i­cally abra­sive per­for­mance from Werner Kok, whose try to level the scores at 14-all was a thing of pick and drive beauty, and a dy­namic show by Branco du Preez from the bench, which in­cluded ef­fect­ing a break­down penalty and scor­ing the try that came di­rectly from said penalty.

But for all that, it has to be said that yes­ter­day was an im­prove­ment on their mys­te­ri­ously list­less show­ing in Dubai, as the ear­lier games against Samoa and Zim­babwe showed.

Up against a par­tic­u­larly phys­i­cal and con­fronta­tional Samoa with bet­ter con­di­tion­ing and de­fence, the Bl­itzboks were pa­tient and worked hard at break­ing them down to fi­nally win that match 22-12 af­ter tries by Kyle Brown, Philip Sny­man, Geduld and Impi Visser.

The match against scrappy but out­gunned neigh­bours Zim­babwe pro­duced a 43-0 fi­nal score­line, in­clud­ing a hat-trick by Shakes Soy­izwapi, a score that would ensure that the hosts would win the pool on points dif­fer­ence.

With the rous­ing sup­port they have re­ceived from the lo­cals, the Bl­itzboks should beat Scot­land, but the Fi­jians, the newly con­sis­tent US, bo­gey side Eng­land and New Zealand still lie in wait. Or­lando Pi­rates mid­fielder Xola Mlambo wants to im­prove his game be­fore he starts wor­ry­ing about rep­re­sent­ing Bafana Bafana.

The 27-year-old mid­fielder says that, as a pro­fes­sional player, he has to know and un­der­stand the chal­lenges that come with the ter­ri­tory.

When Bafana coach Stu­art Bax­ter an­nounced his lat­est squad that played against Nige­ria in an Afcon qual­i­fier, there were peo­ple who were dis­ap­pointed that Mlambo was not in­cluded.

“I didn’t take all that saga and those sto­ries to my head, but I took it as mo­ti­va­tion for me to work hard,” said the star.

“Not be­ing given the op­por­tu­nity in the na­tional team says to me there is still a lot of work that I still need to do. There are ar­eas of my game that I need to im­prove on.”

On what ex­actly he needed to im­prove, the cen­tral mid­fielder men­tioned his de­fend­ing skills, as well as cre­at­ing more chances and scor­ing goals. He ac­knowl­edged that, just like ev­ery­thing in life, it takes time to get to the right shape.

NFD side TS Galaxy FC coach and Pi­rates leg­end Dan Male­sela has said that he would have se­lected Mlambo if he was Bafana’s coach.

Mlambo re­sponded by say­ing he ac­knowl­edges Male­sela’s con­fi­dence in him, but knows that coaches are dif­fer­ent and their pref­er­ences are not the same. “Each and ev­ery in­di­vid­ual is dif­fer­ent, so are coaches. They all have their style of play and their point of view.

“We can’t com­pare the two [Bax­ter and Male­sela]. It is sad that Male­sela is not the na­tional team coach, but I would be for­tu­nate to be se­lected to rep­re­sent South Africa,” he said.

Mlambo has started in 12 league games, in which he made two as­sists for the Sea Rob­bers. He was speak­ing at the KwaMahlobo Games launch – a fes­tive sea­son soc­cer tour­na­ment – this week in Mead­ow­lands, Soweto.

He is a prod­uct of these kasi games, which are spon­sored by Span­ish top pro­fes­sional foot­ball di­vi­sion La Liga.

The games will start on De­cem­ber 19 and end on Jan­uary 5. The win­ners will walk away with R120 000, while the run­ners-up will pocket R50 000. The third and fourth place fin­ish­ers will get R15 000 each.

An­other town­ship event that will show­case grass­roots tal­ent is the Philly’s Games, which start on Sun­day in Tem­bisa.

The Greater We­stonaria Com­mu­nity Games, which in­clude a soc­cer and net­ball tour­na­ment, will take place in Bekkers­dal from De­cem­ber 15 to 17. The Zama Zama Chal­lenge starts on Thurs­day and runs until De­cem­ber 31 at the Giyani Cen­tre in Lim­popo.

Mean­while, the Benny Mayen­gani top-16 soc­cer tour­na­ment is sched­uled for De­cem­ber 26 to 29 in Xawela Vil­lage in Lim­popo.

The Wal­ter Sisulu Soc­cer Chal­lenge has al­ready be­gun at the Nike Train­ing Cen­tre in Klip­spruit, Soweto, and will end on the 29th.

PHOTO: SA­MUEL SHIVAMBU / BACK­PAGEPIX

ROOM FOR GROWTH Xola Mlambo says he needs to im­prove his de­fend­ing skills

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