Durban – Bafana Bafana defender Anele Ngcongca has played down any lack of commitment to the national jersey following his withdrawal from the squad for a friendly against Nigeria last month.
Ngcongca failed to arrive ahead of the game on August 14 after his Belgian club, Genk, claimed he was carrying an injury – a move that infuriated national coach Gordon Igesund, who insisted it was a “fabricated story”.
However, the 25-year-old was back with the squad ahead of Saturday’s World Cup qualifier against Botswana in Durban.
“I always want to play for my country, but that was not depending on me, it depended on my club Genk in Belgium,” Ngcongca said on Thursday.
“I always want to play for South Africa and I will die for that.
“Some things happen that are out of your hands and that was one of those things.”
Ngcongca confirmed Igesund’s suspicion at the time that he was not injured.
“It’s a matter that’s been sorted out by Safa and my club,” Ngcongca said.
Following a SA Football Association (Safa) complaint to world governing body Fifa, he was not allowed to play in Genk’s next game. The Belgian top-flight club did not allow him to travel for the game.
The Cape Town-born player, meanwhile, said he was happy to be back in the national fold.
“The coach and I have never had any issues and we still don’t,” he said.
“Gordon’s a fantastic coach and I respect him.”
Bafana must beat the Zebras at the weekend to have any chance of reaching the World Cup in Brazil next year.
They must win the match and hope group leaders Ethiopia either draw or lose against the Central African Republic in their game in Brazzaville, Congo.
South Africa lie second in Group A, two points behind the East Africans, but with a superior goal difference. Botswana too can qualify with a win and loss for the Ethiopians.
Igesund’s side are overwhelming favourites to win, but Ngcongca said they were not jumping to any conclusions.
“We’re a team that never underestimates any opponent,” he said.
“We respect everyone and Botswana will be coming here with something to play for. They can also still qualify and anything is possible in football.
“It’s a crucial game. We will give it our best and we are ready for them.”
The last time the two sides met was in the return leg in Gaborone last year, a match that ended in a 1-1 draw.
The match came before the appointment of Igesund, who has since lead Bafana to three wins in four qualifying games.
Ngcongca praised the work the coach has done during his tenure.
“He’s done well with the team since he’s taken over and I think he’s done a marvellous job,” he said. – Sapa