Maritzburg’s Siyanda Xulu, left, is challenged by Mame Niang of Royal Eagles during their Nedbank Cup match in Durban. Photo: amuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
Home comforts and a challenge masked as a promise are the key catalysts that have driven Siyanda Xulu to return to his best.

The 26-year-old centre-back has gone from playing just 10 competitive games in the last two seasons at Kaizer Chiefs to being a vital cog in a Maritzburg United team that’s punching above their weight.

It all started with a promise that coach Fadlu Davids made to Xulu upon his arrival in the Midlands.

“In my first training session he told me I will make you the best defender in the country,” Xulu said. “I was unfazed by that challenge even though I hadn’t played much in my previous club. I am not arrogant but I have always believed in my talent. I knew that I would deliver under a coach who believes in me.

“You have to look back at the season; I won the Young Player of the Season with Sundowns. I achieved that because coach Hristo Stoichkov believed in me.

“I was put on a special programme at Maritzburg that helped me to be where I am today, that’s why I am eternally grateful to coach Fadlu, his assistants Maahier (Davids) and Siya (Mdluli) and especially the physio (Burger van der Merwe).”

Xulu refuses to talk about why things didn’t work out for him at Amakhosi. The lad from KwaMashu instead chooses to look at the positives that came from his departure at Naturena.

“That’s the main thing that has helped me play like I have this season. For the first time in my career I have my family close by. Their support and love is what is pushing me to succeed.

“I don’t have any regrets regarding my time at Chiefs but I wouldn’t like to talk about it. I am in a great space that has allowed me to enjoy football again.”

Xulu and his teammates are one match away from making a second appearance in a semi-final of a cup competition this season after reaching that stage in the MTN8.

Bloemfontein Celtic at Harry Gwala Stadium today (3.30pm kick-off) stand in the Team of Choice’s path to the Nedbank Cup semis.

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