'Stronger' Manyama ready to compete for a place in the Bafana squad to face Nigeria

Lebogang Manyama worked hard on himself physically to become a more consistent‚ less injury-plagued player‚ and the Absa Premiership’s top scorer in 2016-17‚ the Cape Town City forward has said.

With Bafana aiming to sneak a draw‚ or even first a ever-competitive win against Nigeria in their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Uyo on Saturday (kickoff: 6pm SA time)‚ Manyama could be an important weapon in new coach Stuart Baxter’s arsenal.

High on confidence from scoring 13 goals in the past PSL season‚ Manyama might be employed as a starter in Baxter’s frontline.

The chunky‚ speedy left winger or deep striker with a cool finish said that he worked on himself physically to become more consistent than the player who‚ after a transfer from Ajax Cape Town‚ struggled for consistency with just four goals in 29 league games in two seasons at SuperSport United.

“I think the problem at SuperSport was just the consistency‚ and a whole lot of injuries. I’ve gotten much stronger‚” Manyama said in Nigeria this week.

“I had to get stronger to play at a level that I wanted to play at. And it’s not easy‚ so I had to make a whole lot of sacrifices. And I guess it’s worked out very well for me.”

Manyama left SuperSport for Mpumalanga Black Aces‚ where he was key to a fourth-placed finish under Muhsin Ertugral in 2015-16.

After Aces were sold to John Comitis and relocated to Cape Town to reincarnate 1970s all-white National Football League team City‚ Manyama enjoyed easily his best season in 2016-17.

 His name is on just about everyone’s lips for the PSL’s player and players’ player of the year awards.

He and City’s other influential winger Aubrey Ngoma have been called up by Baxter for the Nigeria game.

Ngoma seems down in the pecking order of some bigger-name stars‚ but Manyama should get at least a substitutes’ run at Godswill Akpabio International Stadium.

“Look‚ obviously‚ when it comes to the national team you look around and can see that this is probably the best 25 players at this moment from South Africa‚” he said of the balanced‚ strong squad that Baxter has brought to Uyo.

“You have to know that when you come here you have to up it a bit‚ because some of the players here play at the highest level in Europe‚ and some of them are the best players in the PSL.

“So for me it’s a good experience. And I think the most important thing for the whole team is that we must make sure that we get into what we need and pull to one direction.

“You can mention me and Aubrey‚ but there are guys like Themba Zwane and Percy Tau who also have that understanding between them at Sundowns.

“So it’s a matter of coming here and mixing all the talent that we have‚ and making sure that everybody pulls in one direction.”

Bafana and Nigeria have been drawn in Group E with Seychelles and Libya. — TMG Digital/TMG Sport

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