Bafana braced for fight under Tyson

Bafana Bafana captain Thulani Hlatshwayo

Bidvest Wits defender Thulani Hlatshwayo’s appointment as Bafana Bafana captain represents a bold move made by coach Stuart Baxter, writes MARSHALL GOUTS.

When making his much-anticipated announcement of the new national team skipper, Baxter highlighted a few factors which influenced him to hand the former Ajax Cape Town man the captain’s armband.

“I think he’s got all the qualities you want from your captain,” Baxter said.

“He’s playing regularly and starring for his club; he’s a strong character within that club’s dressing room; he has experience at the national team and continental football as a whole,” he added.

In Hlatshwayo, Bafana have a tough-as-nails captain who will not shy away from aeriel duels and physical battles. Having represented South Africa at all levels of the various junior national teams, the Soweto-born man is well-aware of what it means to wear the Bafana jersey.

Having graduated from Ajax’s highly-successful youth academy, ‘Tyson’ has been groomed the Dutch way, giving him the ability to play with both the ball at his feet and in the air.

I believe Tyson’s football journey has given him the edge over fellow captain candidates, Itumeleng Khune and Hlompho Kekana. Yes, the Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns men boast more caps ,but Hlatshwayo has been identified as the long-term solution.

Hlatshwayo’s youth career at Ajax not only exposed him to various styles of play around the globe, but also gave him an opportunity to form part of the successful Amajita squad that competed in the U20 World Cup in 2009, alongside the likes of Darren Keet, Ramawahle Mphahlele, Andile Jali and Kermit Erasmus, all of whom have been selected for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Nigeria.

At age 27, having led Wits to a historic double of the MTN8 Cup and Absa Premiership title, he represents the ideal person to lead Bafana for a number of reasons.

Baxter is preparing for his second stint in charge of a national team marred by external influences, where the power of ‘The Big Three’ teams often rule the roost. Handing Hlatshwayo the armband is indicative of Baxter’s want for a new beginning, breaking the ways of old, which previously saw the captaincy being rotated under the helm of Shakes Mashaba.

Towering at almost 1.9 metres tall the centre-back is perfectly positioned to take over the reins from Khune. His natural born leadership coupled with his fearless style of defending was on full display this season, proving that he is the Absa Premiership’s best centre-back – preventing and scoring goals in their title-winning triumph.

Hlatswayo has continued his development as a player and is getting better with age and provided that he steers clear from injury, he could go onto become a permanant feature in the Bafana Bafana starting eleven and create a lasting legacy in the heart of the defence, much like predecessors, Neil Tovey, Lucas Radebe and Aaron Mokoena did.

*Follow Marshall Gouts on Twitter: @MarshallGouts

Photo: Safa.net