Johannesburg - Just when it seemed the door to international football had been shut for Siphiwe Tshabalala, new Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter has given the Kaizer Chiefs veteran some encouraging words.
The 32-year-old Tshabalala has been stranded on 88 international caps for some time, and has not represented South Africa since the disastrous CHAN tournament of 2014.
But now the player who has forever harboured ambitions of reaching the 100 caps milestone has been thrown a massive lifeline by Baxter, who has been impressed with his form.
"Shabba has shown great skill. If we play a team that gives away stupid free-kicks around the box, Shabba would be good to have on the bench. I'm a great admirer of Shabba [and] it would not be a difficult call for me to include him sometime," Baxter was quoted by Times Media Digital.
And now Tshabalala, the scorer of the first goal at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, was encouraged by Baxter's words, and now it looks as though his quest for 100 international caps is back on.
"I will take the compliments. I've worked with Stuart [at Chiefs] and I have a good relationship with him," he said after picking up his PSL goal of the month award [for April] on Wednesday."
Despite Chiefs' struggles this season, Tshabalala was seen as the club's best player as he rolled back the years and put in some stellar performances in the gold and black jersey.
However, despite an impressive showing during the season, he was not called up by Baxter, but got the backing of his coach Steve Komphela, who said he deserved to be recalled back into the national fold.
"There are no hard feelings for me that I'm not in the national team. I will just continue working very hard and all the best to [Baxter] and the team," Tshabalala said.
"My opportunity will come. I would love to get to 100 and beyond."
With 88 caps to his name, Tshabalala is the second most capped South African at international level. Only Aaron Mokoena [with 107 caps] has played more games for the national team.