JOHANNESBURG – Darren Keet may have endured a torrid period in the last stages of the domestic season, but he remains optimistic that he’ll be at his best for Bafana Bafana if he gets to don the No 1 jersey in the Africa Cup of Nations.
Rewind back to April, Bidvest Wits’ coach Gavin Hunt was ordered by the club’s management to drop Keet to the bench after he had refused to renew his contract. Ricardo Goss climbed up the corporate ladder in the Wits’ set-up; playing three crucial matches for his side as they continued the pursuit for Premiership honours. However, Goss missed the last two games of the season due to a suspension and Keet had to return between the sticks.
“I always prepare myself every week as if I am going to play and obviously the coach will make the decision,” Keet explained. “After we came back, I played the game against Chippa United in the Nedbank and conceded nine goals which includes the penalty shoot-outs, which wasn’t ideal. But it is what it is because the club didn’t want me to play because I didn’t want to sign a new contract, despite having known a long time ago that I was leaving.
That didn’t affect my preparations for games and the team. Obviously I wanted to make the team for Afcon and when you not playing at club level it makes it a little bit difficult for the coach at the end of the day but I was happy to play the last two games.”
That dire situation at the club level for Keet followed after he had played a key role in helping Bafana qualify for the coveted continental showpiece. The 29-year-old goalkeeper produced a fine performance for the senior national side in the last game against Libya, which they won 2-1 to book their ticket to Egypt.
However, his chances to be Bafana’s last line of defence in the Afcon appeared to be slim as Ronwen Williams, his competitor for the No 1 jersey, bagged the Premiership Goalkeeper of the Season.
Keet is, however, focusing on the positives as he believes that they bring out the best from each other.
“We are enjoying it (the competition),” Keet said. “Obviously working with Andre (Arendse, the goalkeeper coach) it’s fantastic. The hard work and fun never stops. Bruce (Bvuma, the third fiddle) is a nice guy to work with. And working with Ronwen is always a pleasure. We enjoy the hard work, competition but we definitively want to have a lot of fun while we are at it.”
If the South Africans are to make a commanding return to the continental showpiece, they’ll need a sound defensive unit.
Coach Stuart Baxter’s troops are in group D alongside heavyweights Morocco and Ivory Coast, and the underrated Namibian side. However, Bafana’s mental endurance will be tested under unfavourable circumstances, having failed to secure more friendlies. In their warm-up matches, Bafana will play Ghana in Dubai and Angola in Egypt.
“Everyone has been on their toes. They are looking fresh, so it’s nice to come back to a setting despite having a few days off,” Keet said.@Mihlalibaleka