The full extent of goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune’s facial injury will be known on Tuesday morning, but for now the talk of the town all over South Africa, and not just here where a crucial World Cup qualifier will be played on Friday, is: what happens if the shot stopper is unavailable?
“I have full confidence in my goalkeepers,” said Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter when asked if he trusted anyone else to fill the void that could be potentially left by his first-choice keeper when the national team hosts Senegal at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in their penultimate 2018 World Cup qualifier on Friday.
Khune got hurt in the dying minutes of Sunday’s Telkom Knockout quarter-final between Kaizer Chiefs and Chippa United in Port Elizabeth, as he collided with midfielder Kurt Lentjies.
The latest update was that he had fractured a bone in his face, nothing more. Only scans today will shed more light.
“I will be honest, I don’t think in terms of when he plays and when they didn’t play we didn’t win.
“You have got to believe in your players and they have got to believe in themselves.
“If we keep worrying about what has happened in the past lots of things have happened in the past,” the coach explained.
Not long ago, Khune was missing in action.
Bafana travelled to Cape Verde early in September and came unstuck when Ronwen Williams filled the big boots of the 30-year-old.
The return leg in Durban was much the same - the same scoreline even (2-1 to the Blue Sharks).
But it was Wayne Sandilands who took over this time around and was equally poor as Bafana’s chances of going to Russia dwindled.
Simply put, it almost feels like Bafana are half a team without Khune. Baxter, however, disputed this - as any coach should when trying to gear his men up for a mammoth challenge, which is Senegal over two legs.
“If we constantly drag the past into our now, we will struggle,” he said.
“I don’t want to think negatively. This is not going to enter my world. It doesn’t matter who is in goal.
“These guys have been in goal because I believe they can do the job and that is the way we are going to look at this game.”
Baxter argued that he’d not been convinced of Khune, when he arrived to take over the Chiefs job in 2012.
“I’d seen him let one in and I was sitting there wondering if that’s going to be my goalkeeper. I’m being honest,” Baxter said.
“But him being there didn’t turn out so badly has it? Whoever is picked needs to know that they have been picked because they can do a job. They would need to go in and give it everything they have got.”
The truth, though, is that Baxter can’t do much about the panic that sets in when Khune withdraws.
“The example is that of Morgan Gould and Clayton Daniels when the captain (Thulani Hlatshwayo) and (Eric) Mathoho weren’t playing against Burkina Faso.
“Those two were outstanding against Nigeria. And you are wondering how in the world is it going to work out in such a big game without the skipper,” said the coach. “We ended up being rock solid. That is the answer. I have been with this squad for 30 days and it is very early doors to say they know their job off to perfection. I think we have a good appreciation of our jobs and roles. I would like to be at a point where players who come in do a job properly.”
Williams and Sandilands might have to step up again, but everyone is hoping Khune is declared fit - even if he has to wear a facial mask.