Daunting trip to Nigeria does not intimidate new Bafana captain Hlatshwayo
Thulani Hlatshwayo is not intimidated by being made Stuart Baxter’s Bafana Bafana captain‚ nor meeting Nigeria away in a crucial Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in his first outing as permanent skipper when leadership on the field will be crucial.
As captain and centreback for newly-crowned Absa Premiership champions Bidvest Wits‚ ‘Tyson’ never shirks a challenge and dishes them out with an at times bone-crushing intensity.
It seems Bafana’s new captain will take to that task with the same relish – not talking so much‚ but leading by example.
Hlatshwayo has captained Bafana before‚ under the strange rotation policy of previous coach Ephraim ‘Shakes’ Mashaba.
He is not intimidated by being given the armband full-time this week by Baxter.
“I’m honored to be given the armband permanently‚” Hlatshwayo said at Bafana’s training session at FNB Stadium on Tuesday ahead of Saturday’s opening 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Nigeria in Uyo.
“Though‚ I know that I do have a lot of captains around me. So I know I have a lot of backing.
“It’s good knowing it’s on a permanent basis – knowing that when I’m called I’ll be the national team captain.
“It’s something that I’m familiar with. I’m the captain at Wits‚ so it’s an environment that I know.
“I’ll be looking to talk to the guys. As individual players we all have a responsibility to make sure that we perform for the country.
“Sometimes coaches say that‚ ‘You’ve lost the game but you played your heart out’ – and that’s what I expect from the guys.”
Hlatshwayo does not shirk from the responsibility of facing Nigeria in his first game as captain.
“I’m up for the job. I’m a guy who always likes to compete. And I’ve captained the team against Nigeria when we played them at Mbombela Stadium (in a 1-1 friendly draw under Mashaba in March 2015).
“Unfortunately in that game we didn’t convert a penalty. When you look back‚ we dribbled them‚ we controlled the game‚ we did everything.
“So it’s a familiar environment that I’m aware of‚ and we know we have to go to Nigeria and come back with a good result.
“We know that will demand a lot of soldiers around the team. I’m one of them‚ and we do have a lot of soldiers in this side.”
Hlatshwayo said Bafana will not be intimidated by the home crowd in Uyo‚ where SA held a 2-0 lead thanks to a Tokelo Rantie brace in a 2015 Nations Cup qualifier in November 2014‚ before late goals saw the Super Eagles earn a 2-2 draw.
The new Bafana captain‚ though‚ admitted that Nigeria‚ who preserved their unbeaten record in competitive matches against Bafana with that draw‚ will be on the rebound having been denied a place at Afcon 2015 by SA in those qualifiers.
“We will not (be intimidated). We played Nigeria in Nigeria. We did well‚” the centreback said.
“Tokelo gave them a run for their money. We know we are smaller than them as players‚ so we don’t want to play the long ball but catch them on the counter. Because they are big‚ but a bit slow.
“It is a going to be a grudge game fort them. Knowing Nigerians‚ that’s how they are. They do have that arrogance they carry around.
“We have to be humble and make sure we don’t give Nigeria too much respect‚ and not be scared of them.” - TMG Digital/TMG Sport