Bafana call-up ‘historical’ for AmaZulu and Mlondi Mbanjwa

Seen here up against Orlando Pirates’ Patrick Maswanganyi, AmaZulu’s Mlondi Mbanjwa is one of the new faces in the Bafana Bafana squad headed for Algeria. Photo: BackpagePix

Seen here up against Orlando Pirates’ Patrick Maswanganyi, AmaZulu’s Mlondi Mbanjwa is one of the new faces in the Bafana Bafana squad headed for Algeria. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Mar 15, 2024


It has not been an exciting start to the year for AmaZulu as they are yet to register a league win in 2024.

That is why Mlondi Mbanjwa’s inclusion in the Bafana Bafana 23-man squad for the upcoming Fifa Series in Algeria received ululations from the Durbanites’ coach Pablo Franco Martin.

The Fifa event is set for March 18-26, and Mbanjwa is one of the beneficiaries of Bafana coach Hugo Broos seeing this as a “great opportunity to call some new players” as he aims to expand the pool ahead of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers.

“We are proud of him and for the club. Mbanjwa, I think he made his PSL (Premier Soccer League) debut this season (he was playing for Uthongathi FC in the Motsepe Foundation Championship last season),” Martin said this week.

“So, this (Bafana call-up) speaks volumes about his growth, and actually not just him, but many of the AmaZulu players who this season were in the same situation, and luckily some of them made the preliminary (squad).

“I think this season is historical for AmaZulu to have so many of their players making the preliminary (Bafana squad). For the longest time, it has always been that one player of AmaZulu made the national team.

“His pride is something I think we all share right now, but from there on, hopefully that will inspire all the other young players to understand that performance is not only on the field, but off it as well.”

The 25-year-old Mbanjwa made the preliminary Bafana squad along with two teammates in the uncapped Tshepang Moremi and the nation’s No 2 shot-stopper, Veli Mothwa.

Both Moremi and Mothwa, who has been replaced by Kaizer Chiefs’ Bruce Bvuma after having not seen much game-time since returning from Afcon last month, did not make the final squad headed for Algeria this week.

At 25, Mbanjwa is no youngster by football standards, but Martin’s linking of the midfielder’s call-up to motivating youngsters is relevant, with Usuthu again being the only KwaZulu-Natal side represented in the national Under-20 squad convening in Johannesburg for a training camp next week.

Those SA Under-20 AmaZulu players are defenders Masibonge Ngidi and Aphiwe Buthelezi.

“They have to know that they should keep their feet on the ground at all times. They have to keep growing if they want to be regular players for Bafana Bafana and facing the biggest teams in the PSL,” said Martin.

“For now, congratulations to Mbanjwa. His case represents a challenge to the youngsters to keep working hard, so they will get these great opportunities.

“We’re a little disappointed that Moremi did not make the final list as he was also in the preliminary one, and having had a great performance in the last match.

“But we have to respect the decision of the coach. There are many changes there (in Bafana squad) – he (Broos) obviously wants to give opportunities to other players for the friendly games.”

Broos’ charges play the first match against Andorra at the 19 May 1956 Stadium in Annaba on March 21.

They will face the hosts Algeria at the Nelson Mandela Stadium in Algiers on March 26, before returning home the following day.

In his final squad, Broos also called up Cape Town City striker Khanyisa Mayo, who was strangely not included in the preliminary list.

Bafana Bafana Squad

Goalkeepers: Ronwen Williams (Mamelodi Sundowns), Bruce Bvuma (Kaizer Chiefs), Ricardo Goss (SuperSport United)

Defenders: Thapelo Morena, Aubrey Modiba, Grant Kekana (all Sundowns), Sydney Mobbie (Sekhukhune United), Nkosinathi Sibisi, Tapelo Xoki (both Orlando Pirates), Siyabonga Ngezana (FCSB, Romania)

Midfielders: Teboho Mokoena (Sundowns), Goodman Mosele (Chippa United), Sphephelo Sithole (CD Tondela, Portugal), Grant Margeman (SuperSport)

Forwards: Themba Zwane (Sundowns), Patrick Maswanganyi (Pirates), Khanyiso Mayo (Cape Town City), Oswin Appollis (Polokwane City), Mihlali Mayambela (Aris Limassol, Cyprus), Mlondi Mbanjwa (AmaZulu), Iqraam Rayners (Stellenbosch FC), Elias Mokwana (Sekhukhune United).

MLONDI Mbanjwa of AmaZulu FC is among the new faces in the Bafana Bafana squad for the Fifa Series. Photo: BackpagePix