Stuart Baxter. Picture: GALLO
Stuart Baxter. Picture: GALLO

Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper Bruce Bvuma is not likely to feature for Bafana Bafana in the crunch Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier against Libya on March 24 but his inclusion in coach Stuart Baxter’s squad was enough to elicit mixed reaction on Monday.

Baxter said he included Bvuma in his squad as cover for Darren Keet and Ronwen Williams‚ who will fight for the No1 jersey. The Chiefs goalie will travel to Tunisia with Bafana as third choice in the pecking order.

But some have questioned the 23-year-old’s inclusion as Bvuma has hardly featured at Chiefs, with Virgil Vries and Daniel Akpeyi being preferred ahead of him after a shoulder injury ruled regular No1 Itumeleng Khune out for the remainder of the season in January.

Baxter was prepared for the inevitable interrogation about the keeper’s selection and he offered an explanation before he was asked on Monday.

‘‘This selection of the camp is probably the most difficult I have ever had to make‚” he said. ‘‘The goalkeeper [question] has been one that we have thrown around in every direction.

‘‘So when we talk about the third goalkeeper in this camp‚ and I think that everybody knows that Ronwen Williams and Darren Keet will be the two goalkeepers, and one of those will play.

"The third goalkeeper in the camp has a specific role. And that specific role is to be there and to be available‚ and be able to jump in if he is needed.

‘‘Probably he will not be competing for one of those two starting places. So this is a third goalkeeper and we do not want to experiment. But we want to gain as much as we can for both the development of the game and the development of the player.

‘‘Without the player on board we can’t do the job. Now the third choice we have made is Bruce Bvuma. The reasons for that I have considered from every angle and Bruce was in our system. Bruce came with us to the Cosafa Cup [in 2018]‚ he was thrown into the deep end against Botswana and he did fantastically well.”

Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp gave Bvuma a run in a league match against Maritzburg United at FNB Stadium on Saturday, and Baxter and the members of his technical team were on hand to watch him play.

Middendorp conceded that he gave him an opportunity to play as the club has a tricky Nedbank Cup quarterfinal against Cape Town City and with Akpeyi cup-tied‚ Chiefs needed to give him game time.

‘‘In his club he has also been pushed into a situation where it’s maybe not been an easy situation for him at short notice‚” Baxter said.

‘‘Again‚ he looked rock solid when we watched him‚ myself‚ [assistant coach] Molefi [Ntseki] and [goalkeeper coach] Alex [Heredia] at the weekend. Now I think that for both the game‚ the squad and for the development of the player‚ this is a situation we needed to consider carefully.”

The cynics offered various alternatives who they believe were more deserving of a place in the Bafana squad, but Baxter stood his ground and said Bvuma had all the characteristics of a great international player.

‘‘There are keepers that are in form but I think that we all need to understand the difference between an in-form player and a potential international player‚” the Briton said.

‘‘There are many players that get recommended by coaches‚ by media‚ by people on the street‚ my wife‚ the dog‚ everybody ... everybody knows a good player.

‘‘And many of those players are in-form players and I have to look at it from a bigger perspective and say 'but is this going to serve the national team and the nation both short and long term?'”

Bafana must either beat or draw with Libya in the final qualifier if they are to secure a ticket to the continental showpiece in June. Baxter’s charges are in second place in Group E with nine points‚ behind leaders Nigeria‚ who have already qualified.

Libya‚ who must win to take second place in the group behind Nigeria and deny SA qualification‚ were forced to take this game to a neutral venue due to a long-standing Fifa ban over security concerns. The security situation in Libya is considered dangerous, with various rival factions and warlords battling for control over the country’s oil wealth.

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‚ Lebo Mothiba‚ Lebohang Maboe‚ Lars Veldwijk‚ Percy Tau