South African national team captain Ronwen Williams has bullishly waved away any influence of Nigeria’s past results against Bafana ahead of Wednesday night’s titanic clash.
Bafana will battle the Super Eagles in the Africa Cup of Nations semi-final at the Bouake Stadium at 7pm. The winner between the two teams will face either Democratic Republic of Congo or the hosts Ivory Coast, who will duke it out in the second semi-final.
Bafana do not possess a good record against the west Africans, and were also eliminated by Nigeria at the quarter-final stage the last time these countries met in 2019. Nigeria have also won seven, drawn five and lost just two of their 14 encounters against Bafana over the years and therefore head into this clash as favourites.
Bafana were dumped out of the Afcon by Nigeria the last time they reached the semi-finals stage in 2000.
However, Williams, who was a hero against Cape Verde in the last round, has denied that Bafana’s previous results against the Super Eagles will have any psychological bearing when the two teams meet this time. “Stats don’t play the game,” he said yesterday.
“There’s so many stats that were against us in this tournament and we proved that stats don’t play the game. We can’t change what happened in the past but what we can change is what happens (tonight).” Bafana’s 2023 Afcon campaign has raised a few eyebrows, not only on the continent but in the country as well, with supporters that had previously forsaken the national team returning to rally behind Hugo Broos’ men. Having finished as runners-up in their group, Bafana have gone on to shock the world by eliminating tournament favourites Morocco, before dispatching Cape Verde in the last round. Williams was a picture of pride next to coach Broos as they explained that they were all set to battle the more fancied Super Eagles.
“We’re proud to be in the semis,” he said, beaming. “We’ve worked so hard in the last few years, we’ve come a long way as a country and as a squad so I’m just proud to be at this stage.” He added: “Not so many people believed in us, but we’ve believed in ourselves and what we’ve done the last few years.
“We’ve shown that it’s possible so we’re excited for the game. We’ve done our analysis and we’re looking forward to the game.” Williams and his defensive unit have kept three clean sheets in their five games at the tournament. The challenge ahead is shutting out Caf player of the year Victor Osimhen and a fired-up Ademola Lookman.
However, Williams feels Bafana have proven their ability to withstand the biggest of threats so far and will do so again this time around.
“We are looking forward to the challenge but we’ve been facing similar challenges throughout the tournament and I think our defence has been rock solid. I think we’ve defended well as a team. “It’s not about me, it’s about the team,” he explained.