Being dropped from the starting lineup earlier this year was just what he needed, Orlando Pirates crowd favourite Steve Chippa Lekoelea has told a leading local soccer publication.
This after Buccaneers caretaker coach Augusto Palacios relegated the 25-year-old midfielder to the bench for the January games against Moroka Swallows, Manning Rangers and Zulu Royals.
Although disappointed not to feature, Lekoelea revealed in the latest edition of Kickoff that he was forced to pull up his socks because the competition for a place between him and the likes of Patrick Twala and Joseph Makhanay is so intense.
Being dropped from the squad has motivated me to work harder. I dont blame anyone. I just told myself that I must keep focus and improve my game, Lekoelea told the bi-weekly magazine.
Im aware that teammates who play in my position have potential and are determined to cement their place in the team, so I cant relax.
A super fit Lekoelea has been a revelation since returning to the teams starting XI against Supersport United with his higher work-rate catching the eye.
He has even shown a willingness to track back and share the teams defensive duties.
If youve been watching my game these days, youll see I get involved a lot. I dont just wait for the pass to come to me.
When necessary, I tackle and try my best to win the ball, even though thats not my strong point.
The Sebokeng-born Lekoelea also believes his brief axing proved that the clubs coaching staff pick the team on merit.
I think I was dropped because they wanted me to put in extra effort, and that has really helped me, he is quoted to have said.
I respect Palacios and I listen to what he tells me. Its great that the results are now forthcoming.
Pirates currently trail Castle Premiership leaders Santos by seven points with eight games left to play.
Lekoelea has won 10 Bafana Bafana caps in his often controversial career.