Veteran Siyanda Xulu is happy to help Bafana youngsters realise dreams

Ghana's Andre Ayew (L) vies for the ball with South Africa's Siyanda Xulu (R) during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifying

FILE - Bafana Bafana’s Siyanda Xulu (R) is happy to help the youngster improve in the national team. Photo: Phill Magakoe/AFP

Published Sep 6, 2023


Bafana Bafana defender Siyanda Xulu has embraced his leadership role in the national team, vowing to help the youngsters to settle into the side.

Since Hugo Broos’ appointment as the Bafana coach two years ago, winds of change have blown within the national team set-up, with players largely selected on form instead of popularity.

And amid that transition, there’s been a number of youngsters that have been drafted into the structures as well – some have stepped up, while others struggled.

Bongokuhle Hlongwane and Cassius Mailula made their Bafana debuts under Broos at 21 and have since gone on to ply their trades in the US top-flight.

But while it’s good to nurture young talent, Broos knows that there are players who are valuable assets for the national team at their peak.

And one of the players that the Belgian values with his maturity due to talent, personality and experience is Xulu, who’s also one of the vice-captains to Ronwen Williams.

Before Broos’ arrival, Xulu (31), had been in and out of the team, having played locally – including at both Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs – and abroad.

But now a regular, Xulu is tasked with helping to guide the youngsters, something that he’s happy to do, as it’s what he's doing at SuperSport United.

“It’s the same thing that is happening here at Bafana – we have youngsters that are doing very well in the PSL and international level, which is very good for me,” Xulu said.

“I can only be excited to welcome young players into the national team and give them help, because I was once young and in the same situation as they are.

“I was going to be very happy if I had a coach like Hugo, who always wants to put youngsters into the team and make sure they realise their dreams.”

Xulu’s presence in the Bafana set-up has been valuable in the last seven games, winning five and drawing two.

And that’s why he and the rest of the Bafana side will want to make it seven wins in nine games when they play Namibia (on Saturday, kick-off 3pm) and DR Congo (on Tuesday) in international friendlies at Orlando Stadium.

“The situation regarding SuperSport United and the national team has some similarities regarding youngsters coming in,” Xulu explained.

“And that’s a big responsibility for myself and other seniors as we have to be responsible for the performances and for them to understand what needs to be done for us to achieve our goals.”

Xulu joined SuperSport this season after leaving Azerbaijan-based outfit Turan Tovuz when his oneyear contract expired at the end of last season.

And with his role at Matsantsantsa going beyond helping the club win trophies, Xulu is also helping Ime Okon (18) to succeed in the centre-back position.

“He’s a very great player and has the potential to be one of the best in South Africa,” Xulu said of the club’s development product.

“We normally have our chat in every training session and game. I am trying to help him as far as I can while I am still around.

“In whatever he does, he must make sure that he always thinks about the future.

“The coach has identified him as one for the future, so he must make sure that he remains consistent.

“I am just going to try to help him reach as far as he can so that he can improve.”