Johannesburg - Former Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Calvin Marlin believes the competition for the number one jersey in the national team is the healthiest it has been in many years.
"I feel that the keepers have all been doing well and they deserve to be in the squad. It's crucial to give them the experience of playing international football," Marlin said.
Since the death of Bafana's goalkeeper and captain Senzo Meyiwa in October, Darren Keet, Brilliant Khuzwayo and Jackson Mabokgwane have all been utilised between the posts – with all three of them looking to stake a claim in Bafana's opening game at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) tournament against Algeriaat the Estadio de Mongomo on Monday.
The battle for the number one jersey is set to hot up even further with the imminent return from a long lay-off of former Bafana captain Itumeleng Khune.
Marlin backed Darren Keet to be coach Shakes Mashaba’s first choice goalkeeper at Afcon in Equatorial Guinea.
"Shakes is full of surprises so with him you never know," Marlin said.
"I think Keet should be the man for the job, but that doesn't take away from the good performances of the other players."
Stability in the goalkeeping department was crucial in a high-stakes tournament like Afcon, the former Mamelodi Sundowns number one said.
"In a tournament like Afcon, it's difficult to chop and change goalkeepers. Unless the keeper is particularly bad in the opening game, it's unlikely that they will be changed. Coaches normally stick with the same player."
Marlin however, said rotating the man between the sticks after the continental competition may be a solution to appeasing each individual.
"I think each player should be given a chance to show what they are capable of after the tournament. Maybe alternating would be a good tactic."
Dumped out of group
The return of Khune from injury would make the contest for the goalkeeper’s position more intense, he said.
"Khune is a quality keeper, but he should be treated the same as all the other players. Once he's back to full fitness, he may be in the mix and the challenge will be for the coaches to cater for each of the deserving goalkeepers."
Marlin still harbours nightmarish thoughts from Bafana's 2006 Afcon campaign where they were dumped out of the group stages after losing each of their three matches, having failed to score a single goal.
He said a lack of unity in that squad of eight years ago, coached by Ted Dumitru, derailed their chances of conquering Africa.
"When we were there, we spent most of our time in the hotel rooms and that didn’t help us at all. It’s important that the players are comfortable with each other and are confident."
Marlin was more positive about the current team set to contend for African glory and believed it was the best Bafana team assembled together in many years.
"This team has been exceptional. They have proven that they do not fear any other team put before them and that has been good to see."