Johannesburg – Bafana Bafana defender Anele Ngcongca has reiterated his, and the rest of the national team’s, ambitions of representing their country.
“We’ve got a great bunch of young players that are so excited to be part of this group,” Ngcongca said before Bafana’s departure to Australasia on Thursday evening.
“From what I saw in training yesterday, I think the guys are hungry. They’re excited to get this opportunity to represent their country.
“We’ll do our best and go out there with pride and try to do what we can to win the game. “We’ve got lots of good players.”
Bafana are due to play Australia in a friendly match in Sydney on Monday, before heading to Auckland to take on New Zealand four days later.
Ngcongca is one of the few original remaining players named in March by coach Gordon Igesund, after the team was ravaged by withdrawals earlier this week, with 11 out of the original 18-man squad not taking part.
Following a host of changes, the South African Football Association (Safa) announced a further four changes to the side on Wednesday, bringing the total to a staggering 15.
The tour Down Under does not fall on a Fifa-sanctioned date, meaning players are not obliged to make themselves available for the trip.
The Premier Soccer League and other international leagues concluded earlier this month, leaving players free to go on holiday, with many opting not to travel with the national team as they look to recover from their respective season campaigns.
Ngcongca, who plays for Belgian outfit Racing Genk, said he was particularly pleased, despite the withdrawals, to still have Thulani Serero in the squad, with the pair opting to avail themselves for the two games.
“With Thulani, I went to watch his final game of the season. He’s been a pillar of strength for Ajax Amsterdam,” Ngcongca added.
“He’s been superb this season. Thulani is a very important player for this country and he will give us something extra.
“He needs us to support him. He had a superb season and he won the league and it’s a great thing to win the league in Europe.
“Now he’s here to do duty for the national team so I think he will give us something.”
Serero enjoyed one of the most successful seasons by any South Africa player in recent history, as he celebrated lifting the Dutch Eredivisie title with Ajax Amsterdam.
He was instrumental for the league champions and is back in the national fold following a fall out late last year with Igesund, who alleged the player feigned injury to miss a World Cup qualifier.
Ngcongca’s teammate, Hlompho Kekana, who also celebrated lifting a domestic title – with Mamelodi Sundowns – said he could not turn down the opportunity to play for South Africa and jumped at the chance.
“It’s important for me to represent South Africa. It’s been my dream to represent my country,” Kekana said.
“I’m happy to be called again. As footballers, we want to play. Coming to represent South Africa is a very special moment for me.
“I can’t throw away this opportunity, I’m going to grab it. We play with passion, we want to win and we want to make South Africans proud.”
Kekana has been a regular under Igesund, playing a large role during Bafana’s somewhat disappointing African Nations Championship tournament, as well as taking part in friendlies against Spain and Brazil in recent months.
Igesund, meanwhile, spoke of the importance for Bafana to play regular games against strong opponents in the coming months, before the team begin their qualification campaign for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco.
“These games in Australia and New Zealand, a lot of people think that the games are not important. They’re hugely important,” Igesund said.
“Leading up to our first qualifying match, there are hardly any friendlies, so we need to play as much as we can.
“When an opportunity comes and we get invited, we have to grab at it and take it as soon as possible, because it’s a great opportunity for this particular group of players to play.” – Sapa