CAPE TOWN – The likelihood looks strong that four of Bafana Bafana's back five for Sunday’s crunch Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier in Tunisia against Libya will comprise of players from Bidvest Wits.
Wits centre-back and Bafana captain Thulani Hlatshwayo is a guaranteed starter, and the feeling is that Buhle Mkhwanazi will line up next to him like they've been doing for the Clever Boys over the past couple of years.
The Mediterranean Knights are a physical team - and the battle-hardened Sifiso Hlanti surely picks himself at left-back for a match in which South Africa would happily settle for the 0-0 draw which would ensure their place at the 2019 Afcon finals in Egypt in June.
Indeed, Hlatshwayo, Mkhwanazi and Hlanti all started in South Africa's last four Afcon qualifiers, including the 0-0 draw with Libya in Durban last September. With Ramahlwe Mphahlele's injury problems, Thami Mkhize has made the right-back spot his own and the Cape Town City man is expected to start a third consecutive match for the national team.
It’s the goalkeeper position – usually occupied by Kaizer Chiefs' Itumeleng Khune – which has been causing the most speculation; for Khune's Amakhosi understudy Bruce Bvuma, the trip will be an educational one, but Darren Keet and Ronwen Williams are both strong candidates to stand in goal.
The two of them come with different strengths and weaknesses, and Bafana coach Stuart Baxter admitted earlier this week that he was still undecided on whom to pick.
Williams is a superb penalty stopper, and capable of pulling off the kind of unbelievable saves few others can. Now 27-years-old, he's added consistency to his game in recent years. There are however those who feel that he can be a touch temperamental, that his emotions can get the better of him.
That may be a little unfair on the SuperSport goalie. There's really not much in it between him and the 29-year-old Wits man. Keet has 10 senior international caps, four more than Williams. But Williams has played nearly 250 domestic games for SuperSport and has considerable African club experience.
Keet is taller – which could be useful against the expected wing-play and crosses from the Libyans as they look to use their aerial prowess. And as Baxter mentions, the Wits keeper is probably a cooler customer.
"I wouldn't like to say who the frontrunner is. Because I think they're so close that if one of them has a bad week‚ or one has a very good week‚ it'll be that close," he said. "I think if you're talking purely generally, then Darren is a calmer sort of person. But 'Ronza' [Williams] is capable of a big performance, a really big performance.
"You know‚ one of the saves against Chiefs the other night [in the 1-1 draw with SuperSport]‚ when he got out and smothered, I think he's capable of that. But to do that you've got to be in good mental balance. And that's what we're going to look at on the camp."
Those factors aside, surely the fact that Keet has played dozens of games alongside Hlatshwayo, Mkhwanazi and Hlanti for Wits, will come into Baxter and his technical team's reckoning for Sunday's do-or-die showdown in the Tunisian city of Sfax.
That familiarity – the understanding of each other's positional play during the heat of battle, and of each other’s strengths and weaknesses, could play a vital part in Bafana getting the clean sheet they need in order to guarantee their ticket to Egypt later this year.
Bafana Bafana squad:
Goalkeepers: Darren Keet, Ronwen Williams, Bruce Bvuma
Defenders: Thulani Hlatshwayo, Innocent Maela, Sifiso Hlanti, Daniel Cardoso, Rivaldo Coetzee, Aubrey Modiba, Buhle Mkwanazi, Thamsanqa Mkhize
Midfielders: Dean Furman, Kamohelo Mokotjo, Themba Zwane, Thembinkosi Lorch, Hlompho Kekana, Bongani Zungu, Tiyani Mabunda, Thulani Serero
Strikers: Keagan Dolly (injured), Lebo Mothiba, Lebohang Maboe, Lars Veldwijk, Percy Tau
African News Agency (ANA)