JOHANNESBURG — Former Bafana Bafana captain Bongani Khumalo insisted his club form has never been in question during his absence from the national team in the aftermath of the African Nations Cup in January.
The England-based defender was recalled to the South Africa squad last week for the first time since the competition at the start of the year.
He is expected to play a central role in the crucial World Cup qualifier against Botswana in Durban on Saturday.
“My club form has been very good for a while now,” Khumalo said after Bafana’s first training session on Tuesday.
“Even when I finished in Greece, I was probably the best player there. That’s a fact.
“Being a new season now at Doncaster it’s gone very well so far. We’ve played six games so far and I’ve been man-of-the-match in three of those games.”
The 26-year-old, who was on loan at Greek side PAOK from English Barclays Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur, came under criticism in some quarters during his last spell in the Bafana team. However, he is now only focussed on what he needs to do to help his country qualify for the World Cup in Brazil next year.
“It’s always good to be back and playing for your country,” he said.
“I’m very happy to be back in England and club form is very important because that’s your bread and butter. It’s what I’m focussed on.
“Bafana have a big game on Saturday and that’s where all our attention is, it’s what really matters.”
Thirteen players out of the 23-member squad arrived in Durban on Monday and they were joined by a further three on Tuesday. Tokelo Rantie and Siyanda Xulu were expected to arrive after midday, with five Orlando Pirates players joining the squad after returning from Egypt where they were on Champions League duty with their club.
Pirates players set to complete the squad were Senzo Meyiwa, Thabo Matlaba, Oupa Manyisa, Andile Jali and Daine Klate.
South Africa were lying second in their group, two points behind leaders Ethiopia, but with a superior goal difference.
Bafana must win the match and hope the East Africans either draw or lose against the Central African Republic in their game which kicks off simultaneously in Brazzaville, Congo.
South Africa’s first-round meeting against Botswana ended in a 1-1 draw and Khumalo insisted there was no point looking to the past.
“It’s the last game and very important that we get a result, regardless of what happened before,” he said.
“All that is irrelevant at the moment. It’s a different time and it’s a cup final,” he added.