Tshegofatso Mabasa has work cut out to beat Ronwen Williams in cup final

Orlando Pirates striker Tshegofatso Mabasa was the Premiership Golden Boot winner, and will hope to get one past Mamelodi Sundowns goalkeeper Ronwen Williams today. Photo: BackpagePix

Orlando Pirates striker Tshegofatso Mabasa was the Premiership Golden Boot winner, and will hope to get one past Mamelodi Sundowns goalkeeper Ronwen Williams today. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Jun 1, 2024


MAMELODI Sundowns’ poor form in the opposition’s strike zone may suggest that a goalless encounter is on the cards when they play Orlando Pirates in today’s Nedbank Cup final at Mbombela Stadium (3pm kick-off).

This view is further supported by Sundowns’ miserly defence, which is far and away the best in the Premiership.

Their defence is well marshalled by goalkeeper Ronwen Williams, who has become a sensation when penalty shoot-outs come in to play.

Who will ever forget his heroic efforts between the sticks after saving four penalties in Bafana Bafana’s shoot-out against Cape Verde in the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year?

Subsequently, he has rescued Sundowns on various occasions by saving penalties. His form between the posts has earned him great recognition on the continent and beyond, and he will go all out to thwart Pirates’ potent forward line.

Some experts rate him higher than Cameroonian goalkeeper Andre Onana, who a few days ago helped Manchester United claim a surprise 2-1 win over Manchester City in the FA Cup final.

Williams’ presence will give the Brazilians a huge confidence boost. He also shines in his role as a master distributor when he feeds the in-field players.

As a result of this ability, he is a master of kick-starting attacks, often from deep options.

Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena said Williams is changing the culture of goalkeeping as he is comfortable with the ball at his feet and starting moves from the back.

“I think what Ronwen has done this season will shape South African goalkeeping culture for many years to come,” said Mokwena.

“We are going to see teams recruiting goalkeepers because they can play with their feet and assist with the build-up more than a goalkeeper who can just stop shots.

“This thing is happening already worldwide. The number one requirement is that goalkeepers can put players in possession.

“Ronwen is going to influence the tactical thinking of South African football and change the profile of the goalkeepers.”

— Mamelodi Sundowns FC (@Masandawana) May 30, 2024

On the other side of the coin today is the superb Nedbank Cup record of Pirates coach Jose Riveiro, who has been at the helm of nine matches without being on the losing side.

Last season, Riveiro steered Pirates through five rounds to win the 2023 final after defeating Sekhukhune United 2-1.

This season, he is undefeated after four rounds to reach the final. He is looking to repeat the feat today, even though the opponents this time will be far stronger than Sekhukhune.

“Retaining the Nedbank Cup is very important because it is South Africa’s top cup. The Nedbank Cup is an important trophy, and every team who participates in the competition wants to go to the final at least,” said Riveiro.

“This cup is very important to everyone at the club, including the players and coaching staff. We are all focused on this tournament and we will try to win it again.”

Riveiro will have a few sharp-shooters in his armoury who will keep Williams on his toes.

At the forefront, he’ll have Patrick Maswanganyi and in-form Tshegofatso Mabasa – the Golden Boot winner in the Premiership with 16 goals – who will be backed up by teenage winger Relebohile Mofokeng.

After Mofokeng was named in the national squad for upcoming World Cup qualifiers, the Nedbank Cup final may well present him with the grand stage to confirm Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos’ confidence in him.