CAPE TOWN – Being familiar with many players in the squad has helped Vincent Pule settle in quickly to the Bafana Bafana camp this week.
Pule was a late call-up to the squad for Saturday’s 2019 African Cup of Nations qualifier against Libya at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban (3pm).
The Orlando Pirates midfielder was called up by coach Stuart Baxter as a replacement for the injured Themba Zwane on Monday, and he was joined by Tiyani Mabunda and Aubrey Modiba, who came in for Bongani Zungu and Hlompho Kekana respectively.
They arrived in the Durban camp on Tuesday, and Pule immediately caught the eye in a training match against AmaZulu on Wednesday by scoring a goal in a 2-0 Bafana win.
His former Wits teammate Thulani Hlatshwayo said afterwards that he hopes Pule gets an opportunity to play on Saturday, although it may have to be off the bench.
Whatever happens, though, the 26-year-old has thoroughly enjoyed his first stint with the national team.
“In terms of being in camp what can I say? Every player grows up wanting to play for his country one day and I am no different.
“It’s great to be here and represent my country. I’m honoured to be in the Bafana Bafana camp. As a player, this is all you wish for – to play for your country,” Pule told the Orlando Pirates website.
“It’s been really good; the training sessions have been good and everything is going according to plan. I know I’m new to this, but I feel like I’m gelling well with the guys.
“I already know a lot of the players because we either play together or against each other in the league.
“But I must be honest and say that it is an honour and privilege to be here, because we are all here as players from different teams working together all in the name of our country.
“And on a personal level, being here in camp with some of the guys who are playing overseas serves as motivation to keep working hard, so that one day I can realise my dream of playing abroad.”
It’s all about the three points for Bafana on Saturday, after they beat Nigeria in their opening qualifier last year June.
Another victory against Libya will put them well on their way to the 2019 Afcon, scheduled for Cameroon next June. It would be Bafana’s first appearance at the continental showpiece since 2015, after missing out on the 2017 edition.
“I think one can best answer from a team perspective, and as one of the selected players, I can say that we have to make the difference and help South Africa qualify for Afcon, it’s as simple as that,” Pule said.
“We respect our opponents like any other team, but when it comes to the match, we will do all in our powers to try and secure maximum points, because we know the importance of making a positive start in this current group format.”
Massive 3 points at stake on Saturday. @de4no22 & the boys need your support. #ComeShowYourLove @CastleLagerSA @flysaa @MMStadium @Computicket @nikefootballza @IIKHUNE_32_16 @Bradley_Grobler @popeyekeet @percymuzitau22 @CityofDurban pic.twitter.com/syvnLPobpD