Always an honour to play for SA: Letsholonyane

Back with Bafana: Reneilwe Letsholonyane. Pic: Samuel Shivambu /BackpagePix

Back with Bafana: Reneilwe Letsholonyane. Pic: Samuel Shivambu /BackpagePix

Kaizer Chiefs midfielder Reneilwe Letsholonyane says he feels “honoured” to be back in the Bafana Bafana fold for the country’s upcoming Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers against Congo-Brazzaville.

“It’s always the same representing the country. If I get an opportunity, I would represent my country with pride,” Letsholonyane said at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Campus, near Rustenburg, on Tuesday.

The 32-year-old, who was part of former Bafana coach Gordon Igesund’s final two games, said he enjoyed being considered a “veteran” in the squad, adding that he was looking forward to playing a mentorship role off the field.

“When it comes to that, you work for that experience and it’s an honour to hear the national team coach say that about me,” Letsholonyane said.

“My experience will be needed and that doesn’t put any pressure on me. I have to try and help the team do well.”

When Shakes Mashaba named Letsholonyane in his squad of 26 last month, the coach made it clear he would look to Letsholonyane to act as a calming influence on some of the youngsters in the national team.

Letsholonyane, however, would have a tough task convincing Mashaba to divert from his central midfield pairing of Dean Furman and Andile Jali against Congo.

The two were the standout performers against Sudan and Nigeria in Bafana’s opening Afcon qualifiers last month and Letsholonyane was well aware of their strength in midfield.

Asked where he saw himself fitting into Mashaba’s team, Letsholonyane laughed before answering frankly.

“I wish I knew. Andile and Dean did well in the first two games,” he said.

“That’s the coach’s decision. He knows what he wants me to do in the team. Whatever role the coach has given me, I’m happy to do that.”

With the news on Tuesday that defender Anele Ngcongca had been ruled out of the back-to-back fixtures with a knee injury, the door had swung open for Tefu Mashamaite to partner Erick Mathoho in central defence.

Mathoho and Ngcongca kept consecutive clean-sheets against Sudan and Nigeria and seemed to form a formidable partnership. But with Ngcongca unavailable, Mashamaite looked set to start alongside his Kaizer Chiefs teammate.

Letsholonyane welcomed the possible link-up, emphasising the two central defenders’ intimate knowledge of each other’s game as the main advantage.

“They’ve been doing well for Chiefs. It always works easier, because we have a short time to prepare for the national team, if you have two or three players who play in the same team.”

– Sapa

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