25 July 2017 – Midfielder Sipho Mbule says he values the time he spent at Bafana Bafana for the 2018 CHAN qualifiers against Botswana.

Although he did not play in the 2-0 first leg win in Francistown, Mbule was in the starting line-up for the return leg the following weekend at the Moruleng Stadium in the North West province.

The Supersport United player says he was taken by surprise by the move.

“When I heard I was in the starting line-up I was a bit nervous because I honestly never thought I was going to start. My nerves only started to calm down during the warm up. And when the first whistle sounded it became a reality and I knew there was no turning back, there was no hiding place I had to face it head on. I had work to do for my country and I am glad I performed well,” said Mbule.

He put up a Man of the Match performance, and it was his assist that led to Bafana Bafana’s solitary by Ryan Moon.

“I didn’t expect to perform the way I did, especially on my debut. But I cannot take all the credit because it was a team effort. I was happy with the way we all executed our duties on the day, where we managed to also get a goal early on to deny Botswana any chance of getting back into the match,” said an elated Mbule.

He was an integral member of the South African U20 Men’s National Team – he featured in the 2016 COSAFA Cup tournament, the 2017 U20 AFCON showpiece in Zambia and even played at the 2017 FIFA U20 Men’s World Cup in Korea.

Like most footballers, his greatest wish has always been to play for Bafana Bafana.

At just 20 years old, his chance came sooner than expected when he was called into the 2018 CHAN qualifiers against Botswana.

He says he appreciates the time spent at the Senior Men’s National Team, and also getting a chance against the Zebras.

“Botswana played well but they were not solid at the back – we were able to penetrate their defence but we could not get more goals. When we were going forward we showed intent on scoring but we missed a lot of chances,” said Mbule.

“I learnt a lot in the period I spent at Bafana Bafana – that you need to improve all the time as a player to stand any chance of success, each and every day you need to learn something new, listen to the coach as he know what he is doing and don’t forget your teammates because on the field you depend on them.”

The youngster is looking forward to the next round of the CHAN qualifiers where South Africa will face Zambia who beat Swaziland 7-0 on aggregate.

“Without doubt it is going to be a very tough match, but I think we will do well as long as we create goal-scoring opportunities and converting them. Against Botswana in the second leg we wasted numerous chances and we should avoid that. I know we will do our best to make sure we qualify for the tournament and it would be great to see the team qualify – and that will mean a lot to all of us,” concluded Mbule.

Bafana Bafana face Zambia in the second week of August with the return leg scheduled for the following weekend in Zambia.

The winner will qualify for the 2018 CHAN tournament to be hosted by Kenya.