Wits defender says he is ready to help the team to a Nations Cup spot in 2019, writes Minenhle Mkhize
BIDVEST Wits and Bafana Bafana defender Sifiso Hlanti has set his sights on representing his country in a major tournament, having tasted what it is like to win trophies in South Africa.
Hlanti, who is the incumbent leftback for Bafana Bafana, has already won seven caps for his country. The Newcastle-born defender has also been enjoying good times with Wits.
He has won three trophies with the club, having been heavily involved last season as Wits won the Premiership and MTN 8 titles.
He was also instrumental this weekend when Wits won the Telkom Knockout thanks to a well-taken goal by Vincent Pule at Princess Magogo Stadium in KwaMashu in Durban.
Having failed to fulfil his dream of competing in the World Cup, Hlanti is still optimistic of donning the Bafana jersey in a major tournament.
“Every football player at the professional level wants to win trophies and I’m happy that I’m achieving that,” he said.
“It is a great feeling for me to win trophies. It is an honour. We all want to play for our countries in a major tournament and I’m no different. Everyone is giving his all for the nation because we know what it means to play for your country. We need to put in extra effort so that we can be on the right track,” Hlanti affirmed.
Bafana have struggled to qualify for major tournament over the past couple of years, having failed to book their place at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Gabon as well as the World Cup in Russia next year, where they fluffed the opportunity of qualifying despite having been in a relatively easy group against the likes of Cape Verde, Burkina Faso and Senegal.
“I watched the World Cup draw on Friday, and it wasn’t nice because I was one of the players who were competing in the qualifiers. It’s a pity that we didn’t qualify. It was so painful,” Hlanti explained.
Bafana commenced very well in 2019 Afcon qualifiers, and defeated Nigeria 2-0 away from home. Their next assignment is against Libya at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban in March.
Having beaten Nigeria away, and with two teams qualifying from each group, Bafana should – on paper, at least – qualify easily for the Afcon, but Hlanti says with our current generation it is not as elementary as that.
“There are not easy things in football. I would say that because I’ve learned so many things if I looked at my journey. Everyone who is playing football must always give his all.
“There’s not even a single player who was born with his hands in his pocket. We must take our hand from our pockets all the time. If we can all do that then everyone will be successful in football,” Hlanti elaborated.
Wits have endured a terrible start to their title defence, and are sitting at the bottom of the log. Tomorrow they will welcome Ajax Cape Town at Bidvest Stadium in a league outing, with he game starting at 7.30pm.
“I won’t say much about our chances of winning the league. Teams that are above us are not far ahead in terms of the number of points. We still have a long way to go.
“The most important thing before the first round ends is that we need to collect maybe seven points in our next three matches,” Hlanti concluded.