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Thami will do whatever it takes

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For the City defender, though, whether he plays or not is out of his hands; he is ready to do whatever the coach asks of him

Thamsanqa Mkhize of Cape Town City during the Absa Premiership 2018/19 game between Cape Town City and Golden Arrows at Cape Town Stadium on 18 August 2018 © Ryan. Picture: Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Sometimes, as a coach, you just cannot ignore a footballer. You are impressed by his unselfish attitude and commitment to the team, drawn by the fact that he never shirks a challenge, and always gives 100 percent in effort.

Cape Town City skipper Thami Mkhize is such a player, which is why he has retained his place in the Bafana Bafana squad for this month’s key 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier against Nigeria.

The 30-year-old right-back has been in superb form for the Citizens and Bafana coach Stuart Baxter simply couldn’t ignore Mkhize’s claims to be included.

Mkhize was in the squad for Bafana’s two previous qualifiers against Seychelles but failed to make the match-day teams.

For the City defender, though, whether he plays or not is out of his hands; he is ready to do whatever the coach asks of him.

Mkhize approaches every game in the same way, which is why he is just as motivated for Nigeria as he is for City’s PSL clash with Black Leopards at the Cape Town Stadium on Sunday (3.30pm).

Bafana are due to tackle Nigeria at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on November 17. As it stands on the qualifying log, Nigeria are top with nine points, followed by Bafana (8), Libya (4) and Seychelles (1).

Victory over Nigeria will ensure that Bafana have a place at the continental showpiece in Cameroon next year.

“It’s an honour and a privilege to be called up to represent the country,” said Mkhize (pictured). “It’s an opportunity everybody desires and that’s why I’m humbled and grateful that I was able to make the squad.

“But I’m not expecting the game against Nigeria to be easy. We will be playing for the pride of our country. Winning this important game will book us a spot to play Afcon next year; I expect that Nigeria will play the same way.”

Before focusing on Nigeria, Mkhize will be urging his City teammates to be more consistent when they face Leopards on Sunday.

After a brief slump, the Capetonians bounced back with a 3-0 win over AmaZulu two weeks ago. City are 11th on the PSL standings with 10 points from nine games, and they’d love to improve on that.

“Preparations for Sunday’s game against Leopards have been going well and everyone seems to be ready,” said Mkhize.

“We are looking forward to the game, especially coming from winning our last home game and mostly because it’s also an opportunity for us to play well in front of our supporters at the Cape Town Stadium.

“More importantly, we also want to move up from our low position on the log, but we will focus on it one game at a time.”

But, as Bafana and Mkhize prepare for the difficult task of facing Nigeria at home, it’s interesting to note that in the corresponding away qualifier, South Africa won 2-0 in June last year with goals by Tokelo Rantie and Percy Tau.

Rantie has since signed for City.

He hasn’t as yet seen any action as he was allowed time to work on his fitness, but indications from the Cape club are that he is just about ready to go and is likely to come off the bench against Leopards on Sunday.