DAKAR, Senegal – Bafana Bafana team medic Dr Thulani Ngwenya was highly relieved that goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune was not injured in Friday's World Cup qualifier against Senegal at the Peter Mokaba Stadium.
Speaking from Dakar where Bafana is in camp ahead of Tuesday's return clash, Ngwenya said Khune came through the match unscathed.
“It was one of the most difficult cases that I have come across in my career. But in the end, we did our best as a team and it paid off," he said.
Dr Ngwenya said he was faced with an awkward situation in which he would have received a backlash from fans and clubs had Khune aggravated his facial injury and would have been damned had he ruled him out of Friday’s match.
“It was one of the most difficult cases that I have come across in my career. But in the end, we did our best as a team and it paid off. I would have been damned had Itu aggravated his injury and would have been damned had I decided not to play him,” Ngwenya said.
"In end, it was a brave and correct call that we made a last minute decision to field him and it all went well. I would like to also give credit to the team physiotherapist and masseur for their professionalism and diligent work in making sure the player was fit to play.”
The team medic said what made Khune’s situation more delicate was the fact that the public had seen him training with the rest of the team during the week and ruling him out at the last minute would have left the team’s plans in some disarray.
"In our medical profession, we always put the health of the player ahead of anything else. But once we got scans from his club (Kaizer Chiefs), our main focus for the rest of the week was to make him ready for the game," he added.
"We slowly integrated him into the team and the player responded positively. We, however, had to make the final call on his inclusion into the team at the very last minute because every decision was very critical.”
Meanwhile, the team worked out on Sunday and will wrap up preparations at the Stade Léopold in Dakar, on Monday evening. The two teams met on Friday where the visitors capitalised on two errors to walk away with a precious 2-0 win.
“When one plays for the country, there is nothing like fulfilling the match. There is nothing like dead rubber matches. We are going on Tuesday’s game intend on winning it and that is what we will go for,” said coach Stuart Baxter.
Despite looking weary from the marathon journey which saw the team leave Polokwane on Saturday after having done a two-hour regeneration exercise at the match venue, Bafana Bafana flew straight to Dakar in an eight-hour journey from OR Tambo Airport to the bustling Senegal capital.