Siyabonga Nhlapo of Wits during the Absa Premiership match between Wits and Free State Stars. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Siyabonga Nhlapo was in the opposite end of celebrations when Bidvest Wits clinched the league title last season.

The side which he was loaned out to, Highlands Park, suffered the automatic drop into the National First Division after failing to win their last game of the season against Mamelodi Sundowns.

The sides played to a 2-2 draw, while Baroka earned their spot in a play-offs after beating Ajax on the last day.

But Nhlapo was pleased with the decision he’d taken to go out on loan, after he had fallen out of favour in the starting role with his coach, Gavin Hunt.

That decision saved his career.

“I wanted to play more games,” said the now SuperSport United defender. “I didn’t want to be one of those players who’d sit on the stands for the most part of the season and go on to claim that they’d won the league title, though they hadn’t made much of a contribution on the pitch. That just didn’t sit well with me.

“I went to Highlands Park because I knew the kind of coach and person Gordon Igesund was and how he could help my career. He helped save and revive a whole lot of players’ careers, such as David Mathebula, to mention but one. I went there knowing that he would do the same for me, too.

“When I first arrived at there,” Nhlapo added. “He immediately made sure I felt at home and gave me the role to lead from the back. That helped me a lot. The few games I played for them there, helped revive my career. I now have a three-year deal with Matsatsantsa all thanks to him (Igesund).”

However, lack of a proper preseason at SuperSport, due to their Caf Confederation Cup commitments, kept the Bafana Bafana international from demonstrating what he can really offer the team in the rearguard moving forward in the season. Eric Tinkler is still new in his coaching post at the club as well and Nhlapo, a newbie in Matsatsantsa’s camp himself, understands why the coach doesn’t want to tamper with a squad which has been producing decent results.

It is in today’s matchup against the Nedbank Ke Yona team at Makhulong Stadium (Kick-off 3.30pm) though, where Nhlapo says he’s more than determined to showcase what he can really offer to his new coach performance-wise, obviously depending on whether he is given the nod to play.

“I’ve always been obsessed with adding more to what I can really offer to my team, performance-wise,” Nhlapo said.

“I don’t allow myself to get too comfortable. I pay attention to the number of tackles I make in a match, and the crosses I also deliver up front.

“I hate it when an opposing player goes past me in a match situation. I just hate it. Everything has to be perfect from my side. And so I make sure that I’m always on point, whether it is a cross I whip in upfront, or a tackle I make in the rearguard. This match is more of an opportunity to showcase what I can offer the team moving forward. Hopefully I’ll get the nod.”

@Mohau_Ra ‏

Sunday Independent

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