South Africa national team coach Stuart Baxter has named defender Siyanda Xulu as his captain for the 2018 Cosafa Cup tournament already underway in Limpopo.
The Maritzburg United defender will lead his teammates on Saturday when they play in the quarter-finals against a Group A winner which will be determined later this week.
Speaking after Baxter’s announcement, the former Kaizer Chiefs defender expressed his delight but admitted the news caught him by surprise.
Xulu had a wonderful season with the Team of Choice during the 2017/18 Premier Soccer League campaign.
Moreover, he has been nominated for PSL Defender of the Season award together with his club skipper, Bevan Fransman and Orlando Pirates' Innocent Maela.
After being deemed surplus to requirements by Amakhosi, Xulu moved to Maritzburg and helped the club finish in the top four as well as reaching the MTN8 Cup semi-finals and the Nedbank Cup final.
The Durban-born defender who is one of the experienced players in the camp, said he wants to learn a few things from his national team teammates.
“I think that experience will help me in camp to lead the guys, it is the responsibility I have to take as the captain and I am very honoured,” said the defender to the Safa website.
“It was a very huge surprise when the coach named me the captain. Coming back here is me saying to myself let me just learn new things from the other guys, let me reset my international career,” he asserted.
“Personally, it has been a great year. I can actually label this as my best season ever. When one looks back two seaons ago, things were not looking that great, me coming back and fighting for my position at Maritzburg United, earning a Bafana Bafana call-up and also being named captain of the squad – and I am hoping for a good tournament,” he noted.
Speaking about his ambitions as skipper at club level, the 26-year-old said he wants to do well for Maritzburg and possibly get a chance to wear the captain’s armband which is worn by Fransman.
He also revealed his experience working under the former SuperSport United coach.
“The guys at the club also rely on my responsibilities. So, I think it is only a matter of time because I believe in my abilities. Now is the time for me to show everyone that I am the right man for the job,” he reacted.
“Things are much more different. Coach Baxter is a very tactical person and this is going to help my game a lot, more so because we will have that relationship as the captain of the side and I am looking forward to it,” said the ex-Mamelodi Sundowns centre-back.
“We have to work to hard and prepare well for the tournament. I can never assure you of what we can do as a team because we have only had one training session, but I believe in the boys,” he explained.
“From the first session you could see the attitude and the willingness to work for one another. It is a good bunch of players, young and energetic, and that’s what you need,” added Xulu.
“Most of us haven’t worked with coach Baxter and that is why we are looking forward to the camp, and from the little we have seen at training, it seems like it is going to be a very exciting camp,” he concluded.