Xulu (26) has been key cog in the heart of the Team of Choice's defence as they achieved their best showing ever in the country's elite league.
Thanks to his solid performances in front of Richard Ofori the team from KwaZulu/Natal's Midlands finished the season as the Absa Premiership's second best defensive club, Fadlu Davids' team having conceded 23 goals in 30 matches.
Add to that the fact that Maritzburg were Nedbank Cup finalists and you understand why Xulu was not only called up to the Bafana Bafana squad that will compete in the Cosafa Cup next week but also nominated for the Absa Premiership Defender of the Season award alongside teammate Bevan Fransman and Orlando Pirates' Innocent Maele.
“It has been a great season for me individually and the club. We’ve made history," Xulu gushed before reflecting on a move many saw as a downgrade for a player once once rated among the country's best upcoming defenders.
"Mentally I had to be strong. I had to be fair and be honest to myself. It wasn’t easy to decide to leave (Kaizer) Chiefs but it was something I had to do. Sometimes taking three steps back might just shoot you nine steps forward. This is what I did. I’m very proud of myself and my team. I will consider this as my best season looking at where I’m coming from. We all know, from not doing so well and then show character the way I’ve done. It is has been great. I was so disappointed with myself. The way I’ve picked myself up is impressive,” the KwaMashu-born defender said as he reflected on his rise from zero to hero.
Xulu endured a terrible two season stint at Chiefs before the switch to Maritzburg for a dream campaign.
“I’m very excited to be nominated for the award. It is a very special moment for me. The other guys who have been nominated have also done well. I’m happy for my captain Bevan.”
And he is looking forward to a return to the Bafana squad: “Being nominated will just motivate me and I will go into the Bafana camp with my head high. I have to put my feet on the ground though. I want show consistency with my performances in the national team.”
Xulu is a favourite to replace the departing Fransman as club captain.
“I was born ready. Leadership is one thing I do have in my locker. I love being organised. I always make sure my environment is organised and my team is organised. My experience will be key. I’m looking forward to leading the team.”