Khune on brink of milestone
Top goalkeeper may become second most capped Bafana player
A decade after making his Bafana Bafana debut, Itumeleng Khune stands on the cusp of reaching the milestone of becoming the second most capped national team player in history.
In Saturday’s match against Seychelles, Khune joined former Kaizer Chiefs teammate Siphiwe Tshabalala for second most Bafana caps with 89.
The 31-year-old could move to 90 caps if he plays in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Seychelles at Stade Linite on Tuesday afternoon (3.30pm SA time).
Former skipper Aaron Mokoena still holds the record for most caps with 107.
Never one to miss the significance of when history is made in a Bafana jersey, Khune acknowledges he stands close to personal glory.
“I’ve been keeping track of my caps and number of clean sheets… I just want to continue working hard and reaching other milestones in the national team jersey,” said Khune.
Bafana arrived in the Seychelles on Monday and take on the Indian Ocean islanders again in Group E following their record setting 6-0 win at the FNB Stadium.
Khune has applauded the strikers for coming to the party after the defence had been the backbone of the team for the first two qualifiers. Bafana’s have not conceded a goal in three Group E matches.
“For any team the fewer goals we concede the better chance of qualifying or winning matches. We always said that we close shop at the back and allow the strikers to do their job.”
Bafana are closing in on qualification for the continental tournament with three games left in Group E. SA are top of the standings with seven points with Nigeria in second with six points while Libya are third with four points and Seychelles have no points.
Khune wants his teammates to all but guarantee their place with a win. “For us it’s just have to keep our feet firmly on the ground and not take anything for granted. It will be the first time for most players going to Seychelles.
“According to our calculations we are four points away from qualification but we will push for all nine points [in three remaining matches].”
Ex-Bafana striker Shaun Bartlett is also hopeful for more goals after the 6-0 record win over Seychelles over the weekend.
Bartlett, Bafana’s second top scorer of all time with 29 goals in 74 games, has rejoined the national team as one of Stuart Baxter’s assistants and is relishing another Bafana win, this time on the road.
“Ultimately, it’s about the individual, the player who wants to score goals,” said Bartlett before Monday’s training at the match venue.
“For me, it’s the work we put in on the field and it’s nice to see it coming together on matchday...”
Baxter will probably retain the team that did duty in Johannesburg with Lebogang Mothiba and Percy Tau leading the frontline and with the players all at training ahead of the clash with no sign of any injury struggles.
For Bartlett, he’s just hoping for more wins for the national side. “Like coach Stuart said, every time we scored [in the 6-0 win] he would say ‘we did that at training’. So I think the players having that mind to learn, it makes it easy for the coaches,” he said.
The former University of Pretoria mentor is excited to work with the current crop of players and believes they are good enough to challenge anybody, including the continent’s big boys such as Nigeria, Egypt and Senegal.
“I think we’ve got a good squad of players that can go a long way. I think one aspect that in the last couple of months or even years for that matter has been neglected is the mind-set.
“Players need to understand that going to different destinations and playing different teams means you have to change your mind-set.”
Bartlett, who doubles up as a SuperSport TV analyst, confirmed he’s on a game-to-game contract with Bafana. – Additional reporting by Tiyani wa ka Mabasa..