DURBAN - Bongokuhle Hlongwane was Bafana Bafana’s hero from their recent World Cup qualifiers against Zimbabwe and Ghana.
After making an enterprising cameo off the bench against Zimbabwe, the Maritzburg United player was rewarded by being handed a start for the game against Ghana. He repaid the faith that coach Hugo Broos showed in him by scoring the goal in the second half which gave Bafana victory.
He was Bafana’s best player in the game as he caused the Ghanaian defence problems throughout the game.
The 21-year-old is a promising talent and is emergence is good news for the future of Bafana Bafana as he can help to ensure that Percy Tau will not have to carry the burden of having the workload.
Growing up in Nxamalala, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Hlongwane cut his teeth in football playing in the SAFA Regional League for the Nxamalala First XI. He was then recruited by the Maritzburg United academy and has been part of the Team of Choice’s first-team since 2019.
Hlongwane’s first season in the DSTV Premiership was one of growth but it was last term that he really began to show that he can shine in the DSTV Premiership. He was arguably one of the league’s most improved players last season and along with Thabiso Kutumela, played a key role in helping the Kwa-Zulu Natal based outfit avoid relegation last season.
Maritzburg were accused of being a one man team revolving around Kutumela last season but Hlongwane did have good chemistry with the player who has since joined Mamelodi Sundowns as he scored three goals and supplied two assists for the Team of Choice last season.
Hlongwane’s strong form domestically helped him earn a call-up to the Bafana Bafana setup earlier this year and he made his full international debut in the friendly against Uganda in June, scoring in the 3-2 win.
What next for Hlongwane?
If there is one thing certain about Hlongwane, it is that he is a player who is keen to grow and learn. He has shown steady improvement in the last two years as a player and will be hoping to continue this.
His immediate him will be to help Maritzburg play some good football this season while also focusing on becoming a mainstay of the Bafana Bafana side.
If he can maintain his consistency, a move to one of the big-guns of South Africa will surely be on the cards. Maritzburg United are a club which has admitted many times that it has to sell players when they are in demand.