Johannesburg - Orlando Pirates defender Ayanda Gcaba, a late replacement for the injured Patrick Phungwayo in the Bafana Bafana squad for the Africa Cup of Nations tournament, says he is determined to use the opportunity to prove his mettle.
"I never imagined that a day like this would come, especially after I was left out of Pirates starting line-up for some matches before the end of the year," Gcaba said in Johannesburg on Monday.
"I feel for Phungwayo, but it is a chance I hope to grab and force my way into the starting line-up."
The tall defender would join his teammates in Libreville, Gabon, on Tuesday, where Bafana Bafana have set up camp in preparation for the continent's 30th edition of AFCON, which gets underway over the weekend.
Bafana take on Mali in their third and final warm-up match on Wednesday but it would be too late for Gcaba to show his skills as he was only expected to arrive in Gabon a few hours before kick-off.
"I will definitely miss the game but I am sure my teammates will do well to beat Mali. We have a very balanced squad.
"I need to acclimatise as quickly as possible because then I will be a happy man."
Facing a stiff challenge from Pirates teammate Thabo Matlaba for the left-back spot, the 28-year-old defender who could also play as a centre-back, is likely to be on the bench when Bafana takes on Algeria in Mongamo on Monday next week, because Eric Mathoho has been suspended for their AFCON opener.
"I first need to fight for my position before thinking of anything else," Gcaba said.
"The experience of playing in my first AFCON tournament is beyond measure and I want to use this rare opportunity to cement my place in the national team. I hope to leave a lasting impression."