The 28-year-old centre-half completed his recovery from a long-term knee injury mid-way through the campaign and, after working on his match fitness in our Under-21s side, joined Colchester’s fight for League One survival back in March.
Playing every minute of every game during his time with the Essex side, he helped them accumulate 18 points from their last 10 matches – the team securing survival on the last day of the season with a 1-0 win over promotion-chasing Preston.
South Africa international Bongani confessed it was a different type of challenge to those he’s previously experienced, but that it was a useful for one both parties in the long-run.
“It was obviously a difficult period coming back from a knee injury,” said the Swaziland-born centre-back, who spent time on loan at Doncaster Rovers in the Championship prior to being sidelined mid-way through the 2013-14 campaign.
“I was probably match fit around January of this year but it was hard to get a club after missing out on so much football. I think maybe some clubs were reluctant or were not too sure what the story was but calls weren’t coming in at the time.
“I believe before the injury happened I was doing well at Doncaster but, be that as it may, Colchester came in towards the end of the loan window and I needed to play some games. They were obviously looking for an experienced defender so it seemed like a great opportunity and we both needed each other.
“They were in trouble but I took it as a challenge, something to play for. I guess for many parts it was a last-ditch move, for me to get games and to help them stay up and just going there, the task was clear. It was obvious it was going to be a fight, it wasn’t going to be pretty but I was up for the fight.
“I’d obviously been a bit frustrated that I hadn’t been able to go out on loan earlier so I had a lot to prove and I think with that we helped each other.
“I’m happy to have gone there and helped spark a difference for what could arguably be described as a great escape. Everyone at the club was amazing, all good people and I’m very happy that I could contribute to them staying up.”
Colchester’s dramatic survival came as an additional boost for Bongani as he continues to chase his ultimate goal of securing regular first team football.
A goalscorer for South Africa in a famous 2-1 win over France at the 2010 World Cup finals, the defender underlined how his passion for playing football in England has only been heightened by events in recent months.
“It was very dramatic on the last day of the season with Colchester,” he added. “It was a tough game going up against Preston, they were fighting for promotion, we were fighting for our lives and it was a big game. It didn’t need any hyping up and coming out of it with results going our way and us doing what we had to do, it was a great feeling for everyone associated with the club.
“The fact that it’s obviously ended on a high note on the pitch does wonders for my confidence going forward.
“I’m a free agent in the summer so hopefully some clubs will be knocking on the door. I enjoy English football, I love playing in this country, I want to continue playing here, doing well and hopefully be part of a team that wins promotion to the Premier League and even play in the Premier League one day.
“That’s first prize, to play at the highest level. The reason why I came here is because I want to play in the Premier League. Things have happened the way they have and I need to work my way to get up there and to go through whatever steps necessary to get there.
“I’m happy to say that, with everything that’s happened, I’ve come out stronger and hungrier than ever. I can only try and never give up!”