Bongani Khumalo – Bafana’s Afcon hope?

2013-01-10 11:26

All eyes will be on Bafana Bafana captain Bongani Khumalo as the Africa Cup of Nations kicks off at Soccer City next week.

Aaron Mokoena, who wore the armband as national captain and represented South Africa in 107 games, and Gavin Hunt, current manager and Supersport United manager when they won the PSL titles in 2007/2008 and 2009/2010, discuss Bongani’s credentials as a player and leader.

1. Skills evolution

Bongani has the full package needed to be a very good defender.

He has awareness of the game, more than enough pace for a defender, great ability in the air and he’s athletic enough to mix it with the best.

He has played for Tottenham Hotspur, Reading and Greek side PAOK, and it’s clear Bongani benefited from this international experience – especially in terms of his distribution. His passing out the back has improved by leaps and bounds.

2. Walking the talk

One of the things that strikes you, playing with Bongani, is his excellent communication as a centre back.

He rallies the other defenders and organises the defensive efforts. Now, as captain, he can pull the strings and get his team-mates to perform at a higher level. You could say he has the gift of the gab.

3. Aerial skills

Bongani is very accomplished in the air, with his 1.88m frame. He also times his leaps very well.

That gives him the ability to defend well when the wings direct shots to the strikers close to the box.

It’s another string in his bow when South Africa is on the attack. During the 2010 Fifa World Cup, he leaped into the air and scored Bafana Bafana’s opening goal in the match against ninth-ranked France (which we won 2-1).

4. Learning curve

Bongani still needs to work on his aggressiveness.

He could be even more vocal as captain. And his passing from the back should be fine-tuned.

When defending against big, strong strikers like Didier Drogba, he can mix it with the best of them in terms of pace.

But he might be left wanting in the pace department if he’s confronted by a diminutive greyhound like Lionel Messi.

5. Follow my lead

Bongani leads from the front, through action. He is a good leader in the way he conducts himself on and off the field, and his commitment in training and on match days.

He has a certain presence on the field as leader. Another factor is that he led Supersport United during their glory days, and therefore has experience at this level.

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