Khune epitomises SA’s rise

2011-06-06 11:43

Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – Four matches in Group G of the African Nations Cup qualifying process and comfortable leaders Bafana Bafana are yet to concede a goal.

GALLERY: Egypt v Bafana Bafana

Keeping another crucial clean sheet against Egypt in Cairo on Sunday night against desperate, once-mighty opponents was a core factor in their emergence from the encounter – “escape” would be under-valuing South Africa’s competence and composure – with a healthy point.

So in rather obvious statistical terms, there is fair reason to surmise that goalkeeping is not exactly a problem area for the national side at present, even if other factors clearly come into play in the heartening shutout.

Yet it is true: in the shape of incumbent Itumeleng Khune of Kaizer Chiefs, the country is suddenly being particularly well served between the sticks.

Khune was first identified as likely best ‘keeping bet by the much-maligned Joel Santana - who did some good things amidst bouts of bumbling by both himself and his charges - and that status was unaltered during the second coming of Carlos Alberto Parreira.

And the 23-year-old has arguably only reinforced his right to be the “number one No 1” since Pitso Mosimane took over as coach after the World Cup and Bafana continue their profound claw-back on the FIFA rankings.

He was probably even more influential when South Africa clung on for a prior away draw in Freetown, Sierra Leone, but Sunday’s effort by the Ventersdorp product in the rather more exotic location of Cairo (when prolific, unsavoury use of laser devices from the crowd only added to the difficulty of the job) similarly went a long way to strengthening his team’s foothold in the group.

Even in the earliest of his Bafana appearances just over three years ago, Khune’s agility and reflex short-stopping ability was not held in any major doubt: more concerning then was his penchant, as with a few predecessors in the country’s goal, for flapping at crosses and making daft forays off his line.

There is still a touch of flamboyance to Khune’s play, but many custodians have that characteristic – especially in more modern football – and it can carry important comfort for them as a personal gee-up device.

Sometimes the world’s more robotic goalkeepers, if you like, may offer an extra pinch of superiority in reliability terms, but are also less capable than counterparts of Khune’s kind when the mercurial, the “bit special”, is called for.

The really rosy thing about the Khune of 2011, however, is the way his “basics” have come on: he is now plucking the ball out of the air decisively and authoritatively, while maintaining his lustre for the smart, essential save when the situation demands it.

Nor are we witnessing as many madcap, overly impulsive moments, even if he is still not completely averse to them in the Absa Premiership landscape.

At the Cairo Military Stadium, Khune was responsible for one silly gremlin when he mishandled what should have been a fairly routine retrieval of the ball in the tense second half and conceded a corner.

These kinds of things can be costly and cruelly decisive, but in this case it wasn’t.

And if the moment served as a tiny, additional tap on the side of the head for him that all ‘keepers are mortal, perhaps it did him no harm in refocusing him during the closing stages as the gate the Egyptians sought so keenly to prise open stayed near-heroically closed.

Itumeleng Khune is growing up, along with so many others in the increasingly more steely, cohesive national team he represents.

With age strongly on his side, he seems on a pretty good course to establishing himself as South Africa’s best goalkeeper yet in the post-isolation era.


  • G7 - 2011-06-06 11:46

    gentz well done with point but we need to up the game we need better midflielders or striker as the goals is what count

      manuel28 - 2011-06-06 14:03

      what a beautiful field they playd on, such a big flat pitch, and our mids couldnt take advantage of this by holding the ball.

  • Nthlarhi - 2011-06-06 12:39

    Rob, I say well done to the team. SAFA must employ former strikers to re-sharpen our boys. The likes of Mark Williams, Phil Massinga, Shane McGrego,B McCarthy, S Bartlet should be brought on board to encourage our strikes to score goals. Playing beautifully and defending well without scoring goals won't help us.

      manuel28 - 2011-06-06 13:58

      playing beautiful? congrats to bafana but dam that mid was pitiful! gave everything away..... i wish we held bafana to the same standards we do to the boks! i was dissapointed in how we allowed egypt to attack us and then as soon as we had the ball we'd hoof it up field like we were bolton, then we'd wait for their attack again and count on them missing or hitting it straight at Khune

      manuel28 - 2011-06-06 14:02

      i thort Reneilwe Letsholonyane was excellent but please dont play tshabalala as center mid id rather get modise back.

      CITIZEN - 2011-06-06 18:41

      yes mc carthy williams and bartlett must do that they the best we ever had if they not available then we must get fani madida and jerry "the legs of thunder" skosana and congrats to the boys now win both your last games and let us qualify in style

      oscar.makamu - 2011-06-07 09:41

      you say it all,lets hope they will do something about

  • Lunguza - 2011-06-06 12:41

    23 Apr South Africa 0 - 1 Egypt - This is not true!!!!!! Come on sport24!!!

      Nthlarhi - 2011-06-06 13:42

      Someone has been mixing the SA under20 results with those of Bafana. The problem begins with Supersport interactive channel.

  • kolobe - 2011-06-06 13:02

    and khune still didnt make it onto the goal keeper of the season list

      Linda - 2011-06-06 13:59

      which ws a very fair decision coz he ddnt rly take da upper hand in the PSL last seson,boys like Sandlns of Sundows did da hard luck for him but he ddnt rly deserve it but deserve smthn very big 4 wht he dd last nyt....KHUNE!!!!!

      Cassels Madingwane - 2011-06-06 16:25

      @Linda - I'm not sure what soccer you've been watching, please do yourself a favour and check who conceeded less goals last season. Lastly ask yourself if Sandilands or Hans Vonk for that matter, would ever get a number position with Khune around and if you still believe what you believe then, I'm sorry you're too far from seeing the light!

  • festus.mphomane - 2011-06-06 14:40

    Well put indeed Rob Houwing.

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