Mlambo not worried about Bafana call-up
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.
ROOM FOR GROWTH Xola Mlambo says he needs to improve his defending skills