Chiefs defender Msimango happy to cut holiday short to help Bafana

11 June 2024 - 13:37
By Sazi Hadebe in Bloemfontein
Given Msimango during a Bafana Bafana training session at Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo, Nigeria, last week before their 2026 World Cup qualifying draw against the Super Eagles on Friday.
Image: Justina Aniefiok/BackpagePix Given Msimango during a Bafana Bafana training session at Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo, Nigeria, last week before their 2026 World Cup qualifying draw against the Super Eagles on Friday.

So keen was Given Msimango to make his contribution to Bafana Bafana that he did not think twice about abandoning his holiday plans with his wife when national coach Hugo Broos called on him to replace injured Grant Kekana.

The 27-year-old Kaizer Chiefs defender, who is yet to make his Bafana debut, is in the squad that will face Zimbabwe in their 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifier at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Tuesday (6pm).

A second home victory for Bafana will see them going level on seven points with surprise Group C leaders Benin, who earned a shock win over powerhouse Nigeria 2-1 in Ivory Coast on Monday.

Lesotho, the shock second-placed side, meet Rwanda at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban where victory for South Africa's neighbours would see them complete the fourth round top of the standings with eight points.

Msimango said when the call came to replace Mamelodi Sundowns defender Kekana he had already made plans to go on holiday with his wife and he had to ask her to give him a chance to stake his claim at Bafana.

“She was happy,” Msimango said. “She knows I have a job that feeds our family and I needed to maximise this opportunity to its fullest. She knew this was my first international camp.

“We'll still have it in the days to come, or even better holidays — I have told her that. She's happy for me, the family is happy and I'm happy to be here.

“For me it was about coming to absorb, learn and grow. I'm enjoying the experience, enjoying the training and enjoying what I'm seeing and experiencing. I'm happy to see the approach to the games and I'm looking forward to what the future holds.”

Broos has told his squad players who sit on the bench are as important as those who start. Msimango was among the substitutes in Friday's 1-1 draw against Nigeria in Uyo, where Broos used Siyabonga Ngezana and Mothobi Mvala in central defence.

“We don't play with 11, we play with 23,” Broos said. “For me every player is important. The most important is when I need those guys who are on the bench they are ready.”

After a topsy-turvy debut season with Chiefs in which nothing worked for the team as they finished a ninth unprecedented season without lifting a trophy, and in a worst place of 10th in the DStv Premiership, Msimango said his Bafana call-up means a lot for him.

“This call-up forms part of the ups. For me it's also an opportunity to improve, improve my skills, because that's the only way you learn and grow as an individual, when you're with the best players in the country.

“They show you what it takes to play at such a level. For me it's to absorb and go back and work hard on my game.”

Bafana's mental toughness was there for all to see in Nigeria, where Themba Zwane's goal ensured Bafana a crucial point.

Msimango said the experience the players gained winning bronze at this year's Africa Cup of Nations and that the core of the national team is made up of players from Sundowns who regularly compete in the Caf Champions League, makes South Africa strong mentally and in quality.

“What makes this group strong is the experience they've had. It's important to have that experience of playing in Africa — we have a lot of players competing at African level and so it rubs off on the rest of the guys in what to expect.

“But more than anything else is the confidence they have. We have guys who are arrogant on the ball, believe in their ability.

“We know what we're doing and we know what we can do. That arrogance is necessary for winning games.

“It's rubbing off on the rest of the team and it's giving us confidence and belief to look forward to the next game and possibly getting the result.”

After their 2-0 defeat to Lesotho at Orlando Stadium on Friday, Zimbabwe are bottom of Group C with two points.