Bafana coach backs Itumeleng Khune’s ’experience’
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JOHANNESBURG - Form is temporary but class is permanent.
Itumeleng Khune must have seen his world crumbling around him after his two blunders resulted in Kaizer Chiefs’ 3-0 defeat to Mamelodi Sundowns in the DStv Premiership on Saturday.
But little did he know that his bad day at the office would not undo the exceptional goalkeeping reputation he has built over the years. Yesterday, three days after the Sundowns game, Khune returned to the Bafana Bafana set-up.
He was called up by coach Molefi Ntseki for the squad to face Sao Tome and Principe in back-to-back 2022 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers on November 13 at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban and three days later, away.
Ntseki swiftly explained Khune’s role in the national team set-up during his live announcement at the SABC studios, saying: “The experience of Itumeleng Khune will be important, whether we play him or not.”
Ronwen Williams and Darren Keet are experienced in their own right, but they need someone who knows the importance of doing well against minnows, or a lowly ranked team, especially after Bafana delayed their ticket to the 2019 continental showpiece with a poor showing against the Seychelles.
But sometimes experience alone is not enough, considering there’s a need for integration. But Ntseki appears to have hit the nail on the head after recalling Thibang Phete to the Bafana set-up, having got his first call-up early this month.
The towering defender made his Bafana debut during the 1-1 draw with Namibia in Rustenburg, showing that he’s a solid centre-back after growing his football in Portugal, where he’s on the books of Belenenses.
Alongside captain Thulani Hlatshwayo, and supported by Reeve Frosler and Innocent Maela in the right and left-back positions respectively, Phete could very well become a prominent figure in Bafana’s shaky defence.
The return of Thulani Serero to the Bafana squad will appease the football fraternity.
Ntseki deserves kudos for again showing that he doesn’t have anything against Bongani Zungu, who recently joined Scottish giants Rangers.
After being left out of the squad early this year, before Covid-19, Zungu moaned on Twitter with coded and sarcastic reactions. Ntseki, though, smoothly handled the matter, saying his selections are based on form and widening of the pool.
Percy Tau and Luther Singh will be expected to continue with their impressive exploits on national duty, although they lost to Zambia.
However, having Dean Furman, who currently plays for Carlisle United in England, back could be a masterstroke.
The former SuperSport United captain is past his prime but players respect him and he goes beyond the call of duty to add fight to the team and could be the support system Ntseki’s charges needs.
It is, however, up front where South Africa will need to fine-tune their scoring abilities. But with the on-form striker Bradley Grobler part of the list alongside Kermit Erasmus, who’s got off to a flying start at Mamelodi Sundowns, there shouldn’t be too many reasons to worry.
After all, Bafana will know that if they are to bag maximum points against the islanders and keep the pressure on Group C leaders Ghana, who defeated them 2-0 in their opening qualifier, before beating Sudan at home, they’ll need a solid team all round.