Former Bafana Bafana captain Aaron Mokoena has urged national team leader Thulani Hlatshwayo to be more vocal, especially in Tuesday night’s crucial 2018 Fifa World Cup qualifier against Cape Verde at Moses Mabhida Stadium (kick-off 7pm).
Mokoena is in camp with the team, having been brought in as assistant team manager to Barney Kujane.
He is serving in a temporary capacity, but could be made permanent. Nicknamed "Mbazo" (The Axe), for his tough tackling, Mokoena bears similarities to Hlatshwayo, who is also tough.
Mokoena, though, has observed that there is room for improvement in terms of Hlatshwayo’s leadership role.
"I think there’s a talent there and, of course, he’s done it at club level — Ajax Cape Town and at Bidvest [Wits] now," said Mokoena. "Winning the PSL [championship, with Wits] shows he has what it takes, but right now, it’s a totally different ball game. We are talking international level, where now he needs to work even harder."
Mokoena would know better about the duties of a captain. He led Bafana at the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations, 2009 Fifa Confederations Cup and the 2010 World Cup, having broken into the team at the age of 17.
He insisted that at a time when Bafana have their backs to the wall after the defeat to Cape Verde in Praia, Hlatshwayo’s role as captain was vital.
"He’s not a vocal footballer, he doesn’t talk much, which I think is something he needs to improve on. He needs to be heard, especially in that defence — the centre of defence," said Mokoena, himself a former centre-back.
"The thing is, in that position, if you don’t talk much, you end up seeing yourself making a lot of mistakes. You need to keep people on their toes and by doing so, you need to talk.
"Look, he’s a fantastic defender and he gets stuck in there. I love that about him. He never backs off and he’s really good, but he needs to be heard. He needs to talk more, just that," Mokoena said.
His claim is justified, but the good thing is Morgan Gould, a born leader, is likely to replace the suspended Eric Mathoho in central defence. Hlatshwayo, therefore, will have some help.
"He’s so lucky, because I think he’s captaining a fantastic squad. It’s a great bunch of guys that can make things easy for him," Mokoena said.
Meanwhile, Thulani Serero is likely to start, which will see Lebogang Manyama dropping to the bench.