Baxter: Xulu is in our back pocket

South Africa will be taking part in a friendly four-nations tournament in Zambia, alongside the hosts, Zimbabwe and Angola from March 22 to March 25.

Baxter on Tuesday morning named a 25-man squad, mixed with youth and experience, while stressing that numerous players will be getting a look-in on this particular camp.

However, one notable absentee amongst the list of defenders was that of Xulu, who has missed just one fixture this season for the Team of Choice, who currently boast the best defensive record in the Absa Premiership.

“Siyanda is one that, when I came back to South Africa, I was very interested to see how we was doing – I think he was in Russia [with FC Rostov],” Baxter said

“My reports weren’t that good and, mentally, I think he lost his way a little bit. I’m not accusing anybody, I’m saying like, ‘where’s my career going?’ – that sort of thing. That happens, and it’s happened to better players than Siyanda as well.

“And he’s come back to South Africa and found his feet, and I think if I’m analysing, I think he has just started again – I don’t think he’s been going for like two years, he’s just started to show the sort of potential that I thought he had back then. That’s my opinion.

“I don’t want to now go diving in, pick him up and throw him into the national team, and make him confused again, saying, ‘Ooh, I’ve landed’. I want him to keep working.”

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Baxter further explained that he’s already an admirer of the 26-year-old centre-back, who joined Maritzburg at the start of the season after a torrid two seasons at Kaizer Chiefs, and says he is wary of rewarding the player too soon after rediscovering himself.

“I like Siyanda Xulu. He’s athletic, he’s a younger centre-back, he can play in a three or a two [-man defence], possibly as a fullback. There’s a lot of qualities about him,” he added.

“Now I want him to keep on that road for a while before I start throwing honours at him. I think he’s doing a really good job for Maritzburg at the moment, and he’s with a good coach, and I’m really, really pleased. I think Siyanda Xulu is one we have in our back pocket.

“In lieu of him not playing, I want to take a look at – not Clayton [Daniels] and Morgan [Gould], but another one – Daniel Cardoso, who I think has done very well for Chiefs.

“Again, is he guaranteed a place? No he’s not, but I think he’s done well enough to have a look at him. And Siyanda is certainly one that’s going to be looked at down the road.”