Rivaldo: Hard work is paying off


Coetzee, who turns 18 on Thursday, became the youngest ever South Africa international this past Saturday in Bafana's 2-0 win over Congo in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Pointe Noire.

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The Ajax Cape Town defender beat the previous mark set by Aaron Mokoena, who made his first appearance for the senior national team at the age of 18 years, two months and 26 days.

However, should Santos’ Fagrie Lakay play in the return fixture against Congo on Wednesday in Polokwane he will better Coetzee’s milestone as he will be 17 years, 4 months and 15 days old then.

“You know it’s a great feeling, I’ve been working really hard. But it came to me as a surprise but I guess it is paying off,” Coetzee says of making his Bafana bow.

“And for me it’s a privilege to be here amongst some of the top players in the country and playing for bigger teams.”

Ajax mentor Roger de Sa handed Coetzee his Urban Warriors debut on 28 February, with the teenager registering another five outings for the club at the end of last term. He has since played in every minute of the coastal outfit's campaign this season.

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Coetzee credits De Sa for allowing him to play with freedom.

“He’s a good coach. He’s easy, he’s chilled and he’s relaxed.

"He gives you that freedom to play, so whatever you do, you must do to the benefit of the team.

“He believes in youngsters, giving them a chance, but also he’s trying to keep us consistent also.”

He adds of his time working with Bafana boss Ephraim Mashaba: “It’s been a good experience being in camp, obviously you learn from players from the bigger clubs and the experienced coaches like Mashaba and [Owen] Da Gama and for me this will boost my career and confidence.”