Johannesburg — The hypothesis is simple, if pundits and supporters are to be believed: With Zimbabwe no longer eligible to compete in the Africa Cup of Nations 2023 qualifiers, Bafana Bafana should have an easier time getting to Ivory Coast next year.
Zimbabwe and Kenya were ejected from the tournament’s qualifying rounds by CAF earlier this week due to the ongoing bans handed down to them by Fifa for political interference.
The biggest winners in their absence are Group C’s Burundi, Cameroon and Namibia; and Group K’s Liberia, Morocco and SA, as only the top two teams will qualify for the biannual showpiece event.
Or so one would imagine.
Not so, says Bafana captain and goalkeeper Ronwen Willaims. Speaking at the launch of Castle’s It’s Within campaign on Wednesday at Imbizo Shisanyama in Tembisa, north of Johannesburg, the 30-year-old expressed his belief that it will remain a tough assignment.
“It is still the same because you still need to win your games,” he said.
“There are two other teams who want to qualify, so it doesn’t make it easier. You still need to do what you need to do, which is win your games, especially your home games.
“I think we have seen that during our World Cup qualifying campaign; and, hopefully, we have learnt from that.
“We need to take each and every game seriously … It is not going to be easy. These are not easy places to go so, ja, it is going to be a challenge but one the guys will be ready for.”
Senior men’s coach Hugo Broos named his preliminary 37-man squad for Morocco in Rabat on June 9 and the now cancelled encounter against Zimbabwe last week, with the final squad expected to be confirmed on Thursday.
While the coach introduced some exciting names such as Thembinkosi Lorch, Aubrey Modiba, Lebohang Moboe, Ashleyy du Preez and a gaggle of youngsters, he has copped some criticism for excluding the likes of Andile Jali and Themba Zwane.
Williams, however, argues that Broos' selections should come as no surprise.
Said Williams: “There is a bigger picture for the coach and we should respect that. He has his reasons and criteria.
“In one of his first press conferences he said that he felt that the team is too old and that he is going to cut it down. It worked for him before when he was at Cameroon when they went on to win the Afcon ... We can only back and support him.
“He has also stated before, that anyone who is available could be called up, so they just need to continue working hard and doing their job at club level and when given the opportunity, take the team to better heights.”
Domestically, Williams and Co are in a dog-fight to ensure SuperSport United qualify for the MTN8 next season. Currently, Matsatsantsa are ninth in the league, trailing eight-placed Golden Arrows, who are on 40 points after completing their season, by three points.
United, however, have a final game in hand against Orlando Pirates coming up on Monday, and should they win there and collect all three points, their superior goal difference will elevate them into the Top 8. SuperSport, however, will by then not have played in over a week, but this too is a positive.
“(Pirates) are playing four games in seven or eight days,” said Williams.
“You could see on Tuesday (a 4-1 victory over Maritzburg United) that they are tired. They have another game on Friday (against Royal AM) and they are going to be tired again.
“We shouldn’t be concerned about them. We need to focus on ourselves and what we need to do to beat them. It is going to take grit, it is going to take fight, we need to be mentally strong. We can’t be thinking of any off-season plans now.