The entire South Africa is holding its breath that Itumeleng Khune gets fit for Friday’s crucial encounter against Senegal in Polokwane.
While Khune’s injury has been deemed ‘not too serious’ by the Bafana Bafana medical team, it is still not 100 per cent certain that the goalkeeper will be ready for the must-win clash.
The 30-year-old has raised his hand with some solid displays at both club and national team level over the years, and he’s undoubtedly Mzansi’s No.1.
Although his team, Kaizer Chiefs, often concede silly goals, Khune’s contribution is always there for everyone to see and it is for that reason the medical team is working around the clock to get him ready for the Senegal showdown.
But who else is there to fill Khune’s big boots if it happens that he doesn’t recover on time for Friday?
Goal takes a look at goalkeepers who could possibly take Khune’s place at Bafana, not only for the matches against Senegal but beyond that.
The 25-year-old goalkeeper comes closest to being the best goalkeeper this country has ever produced, although he hasn’t been too convincing whenever he plays for Bafana Bafana.
However, the fact that he has managed to silence his critics with some brilliant performances for SuperSport United, means that he is capable of replacing Khune at any given day.
He has been instrumental in Matsatsantsa’s resurgence in recent months, including some solid displays in the Caf Confederation Cup. It is also worth noting that Williams played a pivotal role in ensuring that Eric Tinkler's men reach the final against current holders TP Mazembe.
Williams can also stop penalties, and that also makes him one of the goalkeepers the country can trust after Khune, especially going into these crucial encounters against Senegal.
Keet’s exclusion was purely based on his lack of game time at club level, and had it not been for his absence from the Bidvest Wits starting line-up over the past few games, he would have easily made the squad.
He has been in the Bafana setup before, and he understands that expectations are always high from the South African public, more so when Khune is doubtful or not even in the squad.
If Baxter had his way, Keet would have been included in the squad in place of the less convincing Wayne Sandilands. He played in Europe, and played a huge role in ensuring that the Students win a league and cup double last season.
Of course he is not on the same level with Khune, but he’s a much promising goalkeeper than the majority of South African-born goalkeepers in the PSL right now. He’s got height and can read the game very well.
The veteran keeper is still going strong even at 35, and while there were a few mistakes that cost Cape Town City in recent weeks; he remains one of the most reliable goalkeepers in the country.
Walters also needs his confidence back, but most importantly, he has to work on handling the ball better, especially from those crosses floated in to his penalty area.
He’s got all the experience any goalkeeper would want to have, but he’s often overlooked by national team selectors simply because there are areas of his game he still has to work on like commanding his penalty area.
The 34-year-old shot-stopper had a promising start to his career at Pirates, and perhaps that is the reason Baxter has found it difficult to drop him.
However, he hasn’t been himself of late, and he's leaking goals in the process.
At this stage, Sandilands is not among the best in the league, but his record from during his days at Platinum Stars and Mamelodi Sundowns puts him ahead of the many young goalkeepers who can come in and do the job for Bafana.
Of the three goalkeepers in camp right now, he would be the last option should it come to a push when Baxter makes his final selection. His level of confidence is very low, and for a game of this magnitude, it would be a huge risk for Baxter to even consider him ahead of both Khune and Williams.
Sandilands needs to regain his confidence before he could even be called up to the national team, irrespective of the amount of game time he’s getting at Orlando Pirates. His positioning is also awful, and it was exposed badly in the last two games. Even in that Bafana's 2-1 loss to Cape Verde Islands away.
Jackson Mabokgwane and Brilliant Khuzwayo have both had the taste of representing Bafana against the best countries on the continent, but they have had to warm the bench at their respective clubs, and that is killing their international careers.
Nkosingiphile Gumede of Golden Arrows has done well this season, but he is not ready to make a real impact at Bafana, and perhaps he needed to be exposed more at junior national teams.
At 23, Gumede is no longer a youngster and should have been up there with the best in the league. The same thing can be said about Reyaad Pieterse, who hasn’t really come out of his shell since joining SuperSport United last year.
Lastly, Mbongeni Mzimela might be a good goalkeeper for Platinum Stars, but his big-match temperament is not yet at the level of staking a claim in the Bafana squad. Age is also not on his side, and that also works against him at this stage.