DURBAN - KwaZulu-Natal duo Sifiso Hlanti and Siphelele Ndlovu have endured some painful moments during their time with Bafana Bafana.
It has been a story of missed opportunities for the KZN pair. The duo are part of the Bafana squad that will face Libya at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday in a crucial Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier. When Bafana failed to book themselves a spot at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Hlanti watched the biggest showpiece on earth on television.
“It was painful to miss out on the World Cup. It is everybody’s dream to play in a competition of that magnitude. The country was going to benefit massively. It wasn’t easy to watch the World Cup on television knowing we had an opportunity to go there. It was going to open a lot of doors for us as players. It is up to us to respond positively after that set-back. We have to make the nation proud by qualifying for the Afcon,” Hlanti explained.
The flamboyant left-back has vowed to make it count this time around. He is hungry to represent his country in a major tournament for the first time in his career. ”We started very well beating Nigeria away from home. We have to build on that. We mustn’t be over-confident. There are no easy tasks in football. We will follow the coach’s plan. We won’t worry too much about our opponents. We have to make sure we give our best. We will work hard together to get a positive result.”
Ndlovu, meanwhile, was part of the Bafana Bafana team that was embarrassed by Madagascar in the Cosafa Cup quarter-finals. “It will be a great moment if we do qualify for the Afcon. But it will take a lot of effort from us. We need to change the history and bring back those glory days. It is going to be very demanding. We will be focused and we will do whatever it takes to qualify,” Ndlovu said.
In the past, KZN has produced some big name stars who went on to achieve big things with the national team. Players such as Helman Mkhalele, the late Sizwe Motaung, Siyabonga Nomvethe, Sibusiso Zuma, Delron Buckley, Mbulelo Mabizela and Siboniso Gaxa have all done well in the national team jersey.
Midfielder Dean Furman and striker Bradley Grobler watching @BafanaBafana training session at the Princess Magogo Stadium in KwaMashu, near Durban. The duo is nursing slight knocks ahead of SA's 2019 AFCON qualifier against Libya on Saturday 8 Sep 3pm @MMStadium pic.twitter.com/nMQROB3rjU
Given an opportunity, Hlanti and Ndlovu will be hoping to emulate these greats. “The expectations are huge after we beat Nigeria. So we have to stay focused and calm. We will try and do what is possible on the day. The country is expecting us to win and we’ll put an extra effort to achieve that. We will do whatever it takes to get the maximum points,” he added.
Bafana arrived in Durban today and trained at the Princess Magogo Stadium in KwaMashu. “We won’t take Libya for granted. We will stand tall,” Ndlovu said.