Youngster from KwaMashu gets his big Bafana chance

2010-01-18 00:00

PLAYING in just his first season for Mamelodi Sundowns, and at the tender age of 18, defender Siyanda Xulu finds himself part of the Bafana Bafana training camp taking place in Durban, less than six months ahead of the 2010 World Cup kick-off.

It’s been a heady rise for the youngster from KwaMashu, who, after a 10-month stint as a Kaizer Chiefs youth player, was signed on by the Sundowns reserves, and given a senior contract in August.

“It’s a very exciting moment for me and it’s a learning curve and a good experience,” Xulu said yesterday after the 29-man locally-based Bafana training squad’s morning session at Chatsworth Stadium.

“If I do well in this camp I could be called up for the next camp, so there is plenty of motivation to work hard.”

After the current camp, which ends on January 28, Bafana go for month-long training expeditions in Brazil and then Germany.

The camp in Durban includes two matches — a training game against Swaziland at Chatsworth on Saturday at 4.30 pm, then a friendly international against Zimbabwe at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Wednesday, January 27 at 8.30 pm.

Strapping defender Xulu made his breakthrough in Sundowns’ central defence while Matthew Booth was injured and ahead of experienced players such as Derrick Spencer and Robyn Johannes.

He has caught the eye of Carlos Alberto Parreira and the Bafana coaching staff in Downs’ late charge in the Premier Soccer League, where they are vying with SuperSport United for the title.

“I expected to play for Sundowns so early, but being called up to Bafana at this time is quite surprising,” the youngster admitted.

Xulu says Sundowns team-mates such as right-back Siboniso Gaxa, a Bafana stalwart, who was a star player for the national team at the Confederations Cup, have guided him through his meteoric rise.

“He [Gaxa] is my close friend and gives me advice all the time, and I’m learning from him.

“If I work hard and work on my technique and take all the advice I get from the senior players I can make it,” Xulu said of his chances of being part of the 2010 squad.

“The coaching staff have told me that club level and international level are not the same thing. [Assistant coach] Pitso [Mosimane] has stressed to me that as a centre-back I have to work hard on my technique.”

Left midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala said 2010 must be a year where Bafana restore their confidence after a demoralising finish to 2009 that saw the national team win just one game out of 11.

“The coaching staff have been putting us through our paces [in this camp] and so far so good,” the Chiefs player said. “We’ve got two friendly games coming up that we are looking forward to winning.

“We went through a rough patch after the Confed Cup, but I think in the last two friendlies we played against Japan and Jamaica [both 0-0 draws] we started picking up.

“We were unlucky that we couldn’t score any goals but the good thing was that we didn’t concede any either.

“The mood is great. Everyone is working very hard and we’re all fighting for our place in the team.

“I think this year we will start picking up.”

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