JOHANNESBURG - Bruce Bvuma’s perseverance is finally paying off.
That’s why he’s slowly becoming a cult hero among the Kaizer Chiefs faithful, given that he spent the better part of his professional career behind the scenes or being subjected to scrutiny after receiving national team call-ups.
After making his senior debut against Cape Town City in 2017, what followed Bvuma at the end of the season was not an analysis of his first few months as a professional but reports of how he was “subjected to exploitation at the club” after receiving a paltry R5 000 wage.
That leaked report must have knocked his confidence, given the public knowledge of the handsome wages his teammates were being paid.
Even though the matter was resolved by the club, Bvuma was again faced with the fact that he’d always be at the back in the queue as long as Itumeleng Khune was around.
But even when Khune was not, the club chose to make emergency signings.
Some proved to be a disaster, but even when Bvuma stepped up when called up during an “emergency situation”, he wasn’t deemed good enough when the first or second choice keeper was available.
That didn’t help his national team aspirations either.
When then-Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter called him up to the final 23-man squad for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations finals in Egypt as third-choice goalkeeper, his selection was greeted with jeers. As a result, he started the domestic season in the stands.
He only played four domestic matches two seasons ago. But with Chiefs having announced Gavin Hunt as their new head coach last term, Bvuma must have hoped his fortunes would change.
But that was not to be, despite Khune and Daniel Akpeyi’s blunders in goal.
It would take injuries to the duo before he was given the nod in the sixth last game of the season. That became the turnaround that not only Bvuma needed, but the club as well. In the last six games, with Bvuma in goal, Chiefs finished in the top eight.
Perhaps Bvuma’s best performance to date in Chiefs colours was in Casablanca on Saturday night. Chiefs were the underdogs against Wydad Casablanca in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final, needing a hero to flip the script.
Bvuma proved to be just that between the sticks, despite Samir Nurkovic scoring the solo goal in their 1-0 win heading into the return leg at home on Saturday.
Bvuma was unbeatable on the night, not only by blocking all the efforts of Wydad’s potent attack in both halves but his instructions and organisation of his defensive wall ensured that they walked away with a clean sheet.
Bvuma’s real character between the sticks will be tested this Saturday though. And should he keep another clean sheet, he’ll be a match away from becoming a club legend.