The experienced defender is back in the national team fold and is one of the most experienced players in Hugo Broos’ squad
Kaizer Chiefs left-back Sifiso Hlanti is not worried about playing second fiddle to Cape Town City’s Terrence Mashego when Bafana Bafana face Ethiopia in back-to-back 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifying matches.
South Africa left for Ethiopia on Thursday for Saturday’s Group G match away, before they host the same side at FNB Stadium next Tuesday.
At 31, Hlanti is the oldest Bafana player in the current group and says he does not mind 23-year-old Mashego being selected ahead of him in what would be the Cape Town City player’s national team debut.
He says this although he views Mashego as still having a ‘long way to go in football’.
“I don’t worry myself that much [if I will start] because I think the coach decided to choose two left-backs so it’s up to him,” Hlanti told Safa media.
“I will respect any decision he takes because at the end of the day no one has a contract with the national team.
“You play at that point and time depending it is a choice by the coach to choose who will be in the starting XI. I respect whoever is playing and Mashego is a good guy, he has been doing well. For me, it is about giving him some encouragement. He still has a long way to go in football.”
The last time Bafana were involved in World Cup action, Nyiko Mobbie was the left-back against Zimbabwe and Ghana.
That move drew some criticism as Mobbie was out of his parent club Mamelodi Sundowns’ plans and also that he is a natural right-back.
But this time around, Broos has brought in Hlantie and Mashego who are natural left-backs and the Chiefs man is back in the national team after being overlooked by the new national team coach.
“I am grateful, it’s an honour for me to receive a call-up once more,” said Hlanti.
“Being in this game for quite some time and coming back to the national team at my age is to try and give the younger ones some experience and good things I have gone through in football.
“I’m not here to relax but to give them what I know and what I have learnt in football. So the encouragement and me mentality is what will determine everything. I also respect them because when you look at the past few games they have played, they displayed some exciting football. It seems things are going the way the coach wants so it’s a great thing.”
Before the recent call-up, Hlanti’s last dance with the national team was during the failed Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign against Sudan in March 2021.