With Itumeleng Khune nursing a long-term injury, this allows one of the three goalkeepers chosen by Baxter to stand up and be counted
South Africa needs at least a point to book their ticket to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals, but Stuart Baxter has been left with a conundrum going into their final Group E qualifier against Libya.
With a place in Egypt at stake, Baxter would have wanted to have his most tried and tested troops do battle in Tunisia, but coaches at times don’t get everything that they wish for as Itumeleng Khune is out injured.
This is a massive blow to Bafana as a safe pair of hands at the back brings about a sense of calmness and surety, and considering some of the national team’s past mishaps when Khune wasn’t involved, pessimism may creep in from SA supporters.
However, Baxter has called up two quality keepers in Ronwen Williams and Darren Keet, while third-choice Bruce Bvuma, is in the team to continue learning the ropes.
This leaves Keet and Williams to fight it out for a starting berth.
With a collective tally of 16 international appearances between them, the two goalkeepers are perhaps a bit light on international experience, but what they fall short on minutes, they make up in quality.
This makes a choice for who to start rather difficult for Baxter.
Both keepers have attributes that set them apart. Darren Keet is an excellent shot-stopper with a good aerial presence which might tempt Baxter to opt for the Bidvest Wits shot-stopper when Libya’s typical North African approach is considered.
But Keet is not as nimble as Williams and his distribution is also not as good, especially when compared to what Bafana currently enjoy with Khune.
If it’s a ball-playing keeper that Baxter and his technical team want, Williams is certainly their man.
The 27-year-old may be less experienced than Keet but he is arguably one of the best goalkeepers in the country. His confidence on the ball, no-fear attitude and ability to make jaw-dropping saves are all a major plus, not to mention that there is not better shot-stopper than Williams when it comes to stopping penalties.
The only issue is that Williams has often failed to replicate his domestic form for his country.
This is a confidence issue as he seems to be unable to brush off the memories of his debut – a 5-0 mauling at the hands of Brazil five years ago.
But at the end of the day, while that result will always be a blot on his career, he needs to bounce back and live up to his potential on the international stage.
At club level, he has been immense, acting as a superb last line of defence that at times feels impenetrable.
Nonetheless, it all comes down to whether or not he can get over his psychological hurdle as the other international appearances that followed were not convincing.
This leaves Baxter with a major decision to make, but should Williams shows signs of being the keeper that has conceded just 21 goals for SuperSport in the league, then he is a shoo-in.
But if the 65-year-old does not feel that Williams is confident enough going into the game, the choice to put Keet in between the sticks makes the most amount of sense.
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While the former Belgium-based keeper is not the most flamboyant of keepers, he can be called ‘Mr Reliable’.
He has conceded 25 goals in the league with nine clean sheets – one less than Williams who has 10, but it’s his no thrills, frills or spills type of goalkeeping that may be what is needed in such an important game.