Auckland - Bafana Bafana midfielder Bongani Zungu says he fancies the national team’s chances of qualifying for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) despite a tough qualifying draw.
The South Africans are pitted against defending champions Nigeria in Group A. A tricky Sudan outfit also lies in wait, as does another team yet to be decided, with Congo Brazzaville and Libya the favourites to battle it out for the final spot.
"We’ve got the talent. We’ve got the hunger," Zungu said at the team’s base in Takapuna, north of Auckland, on Wednesday evening.
"A lot of players came in, especially this camp, and showed that everybody is important, as long as they do well with their respective teams.
"Looking at the squad right now and the guys who were not able to make it, I think we stand a good chance. We’ve got a mixture of young and experienced guys, as well as the European guys. If the coach combines that, we will compete."
As hosts of the previous tournament, Bafana gained automatic qualification in 2013 and made it through to the quarterfinals, but were thwarted by Mali, which was crushed by the eventual champions in the next game.
In 2015, Bafana will have to stake their claim for a place at the continental showpiece being hosted by Morocco. They begin their road to qualification in September.
A strenuous, three-month qualification period awaits South Africa, who will play two games a month between September and November.
The Mamelodi Sundowns playmaker spoke of his desire to be called up to the national side, a team he has already represented eight times since making his debut in August 2013 against Burkina Faso in Johannesburg.
"There’s definitely excitement, because this is what we live for as players: to get that recognition in the national team," Zungu said.
"I’m very happy. Since I’ve been here [in the national team] I’ve gained a lot of experience and I’m happy to be in the squad.
"Nothing beats hard work. It doesn’t matter where you come from or which team you were playing for. If you apply hard work, if you do well, you will play."
Already a premiership winner with his new club Sundowns, which he joined in June last year, Zungu burst onto the international stage from a hugely successful University of Pretoria team, where he first earned his stripes under coach Steve Barker.
The 21-year-old impressed former Bafana boss Pitso Mosimane, who immediately drafted the ambitious youngster into his Sundowns starting line-up, where he caught the eye of Gordon Igesund.
But the lanky midfielder has no plans of stopping and has set his sights on his next target, a move abroad following the career paths of Ayanda Patosi, Anele Ngcongca, and South Africa’s headline act in New Zealand, Thulani Serero.
"I had a goal before - to play for a big team and get that recognition for Bafana," Zungu said.
"My goals have changed now since being here. It’s to get more caps and to do well until I go to Europe.
"We talk - Patosi and Serero - and they tell me their excitement and their joy of playing in Europe, so that makes me want to push more and hopefully one day it’s going to happen."
Used as a second half replacement in Bafana’s friendly draw with Australia’s Socceroos on Monday, Zungu is in line for a starting role against the All Whites, after Igesund earlier this week said he would be rotating his squad to give every player on tour a run.
"It was a nice tough game for us, we really gave Australia a run for their money," he said.