rowen fernandez in war for jersey

Former Bafana Bafana number one goalkeeper, Rowen Fernandez, wants his place in Joel Santana's squad back ahead of World Cup and Confederations Cup and is prepared to fight for it.

Former Bafana Bafana number one goalkeeper, Rowen Fernandez, wants his place in Joel Santana's squad back ahead of World Cup and Confederations Cup and is prepared to fight for it.

The former Wits and Kaizer Chiefs star keeper who now turns out for Arminia Bielefeld returned to action at the start of January with his Bundesliga club after a five month lay-off due to a damaged cruciate knee ligament.

Said Fernandez after finishing training with Bundesliga side in the German city Bielefeld last week: "I have one message to those who covet the Bafana goalkeeping jersey - don't get too comfortable. I am out of sight but I hope I am not out of mind. I am determined to get my place back both at club and national level."

Fernandez, who at 30 said he was getting into his prime years, was confident he would soon be back as the Bielefeld number one keeper. "It is not if, but when. I will be number one at Bielefeld and soon. It is a matter of time. I was on the bench at the weekend when we travelled to Bremen to play (Werder) Bremen and won 2-1. That was a big away win for us and moved us four points away from relegation. I have played in a number of friendly games and feel stronger every day." Fernandez said while he was determined to add to his 19 caps for Bafana. He also has a lot of unfilled ambitions.

Explained the Springs-born keeper: "I would like to play in England but to do that, I need caps and keep playing regularly for my country.

"So, that is one reason for getting my Bafana place back. But obviously I want to feature in both the Confederations Cup and 2010 World Cup finals. These are two opportunities I do not want to miss. It is a chance of a lifetime and I do not want to miss out." Fernandez was disappointed that he would not be part of the squad to play Chile in a friendly international at Polokwane's Peter Mokaba Stadium on Wednesday. Santana named his squad to play the South Americans last Thursday.

Said Fernandez: "I have been training fully since the begining of the year. My injury has healed perfectly and I would have loved just to be part of the Bafana squad again. But there are other friendly matches against Norway and Portugal that I hope I will be given the opportunity to win my place back.

Fernandez was dropped by Santana after Nigeria defeated Bafana 2-0 in the African Nations Cup qualifier in Abuja on June 1 last year.

It appears Santana blamed Fernandez for that loss yet Fernandez was one of the better performers, if not the man of the match that afternoon, and had it not been for his skills and saves, the defeat might have been heavier.

Other keepers in the national squad have made bad mistakes and yet they have been given another chance.

But there is no question Bafana needs Fernandez's experience during the build up to the Confederations Cup. The man who took his place after Abuja, is his former Amakhosi teammate and deputy, Itumeleng Khune, who at 21 has still a long way to go in terms of experience.

Khune is the best prospect that has emerged since South Africa was re-admitted to the international arena in 1992, and Fernandez could help him develop into a world class goalkeeper.

Fernandez said his game had improved from playing 18 months in one of the most competitive leagues in Europe.

"At 30 I am getting to my peak as a keeper. But I want to go higher and I am confident I can once again regain my place in the Bafana squad and reach my goal of playing in England for a top Premiership side.

"But first I must get ready and roll up my sleeves and make sure the lads back home know that I am not giving up. I am going to fight tooth and nail to get the Bafana number one jersey back. - Sapa