Khumalo earns Mokoena praise

  • Last Updated: June 13 2010, 18:31 BST

South Africa captain Aaron Mokoena has praised the way defensive partner Bongani Khumalo has risen to the challenge of international football.

Bongani Khumalo - saluted by Mokoena.

Four months ago the SuperSport United skipper was not even in the frame for a spot in Carlos Alberto Parreira's squad for the World Cup - sitting behind the likes of Matthew Booth, Morgan Gould and Nasief Morris.

But loss of form for Booth, an injury to Gould and Morris' failure to impress the coach, have seen Khumalo dramatically rise to the top.

According to Portsmouth's Mokoena, the 23-year-old is the future of South African football following a solid display in their opening match of the World Cup against Mexico, which ended 1-1.

"I have been happy to play with any defender that I can play with but this young boy has risen to the challenge," he said.

"Bongani has been playing in a way that you can he is the future in our national team and it was the same against Mexico, because again he did a very good job in defence."

Khumalo was just pleased to have been given such an opportunity in such a key game.

He added: "It was exciting to having been selected in a World Cup opening match.

"Of course, at first there were nerves, but then at the end of the day it was just another football match that had to be played."