The rotation of Bafana Bafana goalkeepers at the Afcon in Egypt has left many guessing who will be next in goal for each match, while questions have also been raised about why the rotation is necessary.
That the team deployed Darren Keet and Ronwen Williams in the three group matches fell just one change short of equalling the 2015 Afcon campaign, when then head coach Shakes Mashaba used all three keepers during the first round.
Some observers even joked that Kaizer Chiefs reserve keeper Bruce Bvuma may as well have fancied his chances for the match against Egypt yesterday.
But Bafana goalkeeper trainer Andre Arendse told City Press this week that the technical team’s decision about who is in goal on match day is informed by opposition analysis.
“I’m not one who is quick at changing the goalkeeper all the time. Goalkeeping is a very settled position,” said Arendse.
“Now Ronwen and Darren have proved me wrong in that perspective, in the way they have responded to grabbing team selection for match days.
Bafana Bafana goalkeeper coach Andre Arendse (seen here with head coach Stuart Baxter) has defended the technical team’s decision to rotate goalkeepers at the Afcon. Picture: Gavin Barker / BackpagePix
“It has been so close between the two – it has literally come down to opposition analysis. So selection has been based a lot on analysis,” explained the former Bafana No 1, who boasts 67 international caps and made 436 PSL appearances before bowing out aged 45.
He cited the team’s final Afcon qualifier against Libya in March as where the rotation trend started due to the injury of regular goalie Itumeleng Khune.
“Our opposition analysis indicated that Libya had big guys and they played out on the wings and put crosses in, and we felt Darren was more suited for that – the high ball – and it worked in that particular game,” said Arendse.
“We got to the opening game here in Egypt and we felt that Ivory Coast played with inverted wingers, so they come inside to have shots at goal and we felt Ronwen was more suited for the shot-stopping game.
“Against Namibia, we felt that they had to come at us and will play the long balls into the big box, and Darren was suited for that.
“And if you look at Ronwen in the game against Morocco, there wasn’t trouble that he needed to deal with.
“And the goal is one most goalkeepers will concede if we don’t clear our lines and we don’t take the pressure off us defensively.”
Arendse admitted that Williams and Keet’s performances have been so close it has posed a serious selection headache.
A former club and national team goalkeeper himself, Arendse also recalled how he used to be disappointed when he was dropped from the line-up after he had played the previous game.
But the SuperSport United goalie coach quickly pointed out that he used his experience to motivate his charges so that the rotational system did not have an adverse psychological effect on them.
“Goalkeepers are crazy people and they need to know what’s going on. So the mental side of the game is important.
“Not playing is probably the most difficult thing in goalkeeping and I’ve been through it in my career,” he said.
“I always impress on my goalkeepers that there’s going to be a next time. And your readiness for that next time starts immediately when you have the disappointment of not seeing your name in the starting line-up.
SuperSport United goalminder Ronwen Williams kept goal for Bafana Bafana in his second match of the Afcon tournament against Morocco on Monday, which SA lost. Picture: Gavin Barker / BackpagePix
“I always keep my training sessions competitive. I never like one goalkeeper to think he is not involved. And that, for me, keeps you mentally strong and mentally in tune when next time comes around.”
Arendse added: “I always say to Bruce, don’t come here and think you are number three.”
SuperSport United goalminder Williams has been unfortunate – he often finds himself on the losing side when he is in goal. The 1-0 defeats to Ivory Coast and Morocco were the latest setbacks for him.
“It’s a natural thing that goalkeepers tend to blame themselves for goals conceded.
“For Ronwen, over the past year or so – maybe a little longer – he’s been on a two-fold phase. He has had to endure a very tough time in the national team, so when he has played, he has conceded goals.
“There was the Brazil game where he conceded five goals [in 2014]. So he hasn’t been having a good time. I took him a step back to club level, where I needed to work on his mental strength and confidence,” Arendse said.
The result was in how Williams’ performances were rewarded with the PSL goalkeeper of the season award after this season, he said.
Arendse also defended Bvuma, whose selection for the final Afcon squad was questioned by many commentators.
“A lot of people – I’ve seen it on social media and in the press – have questioned the selection of Bruce. We must remember that, even if he’s a seasoned goalkeeper, he’s also still learning.
“The attitude Bruce is bringing to the sessions is phenomenal,” he said.
Arendse added that South Africa needed to develop more young goalies to increase the pool of future national team goalminders.