JOHANNESBURG – Siyanda Xulu says his national team call-up is evidence to the hard-work he has put in at Maritzburg United this previous season.
Not only has Xulu made a return to Bafana Bafana, but he will also captain the team during the on-going Cosafa tournament in Limpopo when they take on Group A winners in the quarter-finals on Sunday.
“I had to work hard at club-level, now I am reaping the fruits,” Xulu said. “I’ve been with national team for years, and it was with different coaches. It’s definitely a privilege to work with the guys. Leading the team is a responsibility I’ll gladly take and it’s a honour for me.”
When he joined the Maritzburg outfit last season, it came as a shock to some members of the football fraternity, his having played for teams such as Sundowns, Rostov in Russia, and Kaizer Chiefs. However, far from despair, the 26-year-old grabbed the opportunity to revive his career at the Pietermaritzburg-based club. Hence, he helped the team to a fourth finish on the PSL log standings and to the club’s first cup final.
It was not a surprise when he was nominated for the best defender of the season in the Premier Soccer League awards. But to be asked to lead the national team swept him off his feet, especially after a four-year absence from the Bafana set-up.
“It was a very huge surprise (to be asked to be the captain),” he said.
“Coming back here for me is sending a strong message that I should learn something from the guys. I wanted to reset my international career, so that I can focus more on my game.”
He continued: “Obviously things are much different now because there’s coach Stuart (Baxter). I think that’s going to help me improve my game. And of course, we are going to have a close relationship as the captain and coach. So I am looking forward to that.”
The Durban-born centreback says he was very impressed with what he saw from the young guns in the squad. As a result, he’s confident that they will do well in the competition.
“I believe in the boys,” he said. “It’s a good crop of players that are good and energetic. This is exactly what you need. We looking forward to the camp and I think it’s going to be very exciting.
The plan is to make the cut in the AFCON qualifiers, so it is important to do well in this competition. It’s been a good year for me personally.”