JOHANNESBURG, January 10 – Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune’s shoulder injury has put his participation for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in major doubt, should Bafana Bafana qualify for the tournament.
Khune’s last appearance for Chiefs came at the start of December in a 2-1 win over Golden Arrows, and speaking ahead of Amakhosi’s league match with Bidvest Wits on Wednesday night (a 2-0 win), his club coach Ernst Middendorp revealed the full extent of the goalkeeper’s setback.
“Itumeleng Khune underwent shoulder surgery and should return in six months.”
This means that unless Chiefs go to the market for a new goalkeeper, they’ll be relying on Virgil Vries to take them through to the end of the season, and it also means that Khune will most certainly miss South Africa’s 2019 AFCON qualifier away to Libya on March 22.
Bafana must avoid defeat to the north Africans in order to qualify for the continental showpiece, which takes place in Egypt from 15 June until 13 July this year.
That timeline would be cutting it very fine for Khune, and even if he does make a quicker-than-expected return to action, the 31-year-old would be going into the tournament with little or no game-time under his belt, should Bafana qualify, and should national team coach Stuart Baxter decide to risk selecting him.
Vries’ recent blunder against Mamelodi Sundowns aside, the Namibian has proven himself a more-than-capable shot-stopper and enjoyed an excellent season with Baroka FC in the 2017/ 18 campaign.
However, Khune, Chiefs’ longest-serving player and club captain, brings far more to the team than just his goalkeeping ability, and the Amakhosi talisman’s leadership and organizational qualities will be missed as the Soweto club looks to mount challenges for the Nedbank Cup, the CAF Confederation Cup, and maybe even the league.
The second most-capped Bafana player of all time had been a regular starter in South Africa’s 2019 AFCON qualifying campaign, with Bidvest Wits goalkeeper Darren Keet usually his preferred deputy.
With SuperSport keeper Ronwen Williams not really having taken to the international stage, the 29-year-old Keet will surely be handed the number one position in Khune’s absence.
Those two aside, Bafana are not really spoiled for options in goal right now; close to half of the Premier League clubs currently have foreign-born keepers as their first choice in goal.
Khune’s former understudy, Brilliant Khuzwayo, remains sidelined with a long-term injury and is yet to make his debut for Orlando Pirates. (ANA)