CAIRO – Bafana Bafana’s 1-0 loss to Ivory Coast in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) was a bittersweet moment for Ronwen Williams.
The SuperSport United goalkeeper finally put to bed doubts about his capabilities as the country’s No 1 with a brilliant display against one of the best attacks on the continent.
Williams was a surprise inclusion in the starting XI starting ahead of Darren Keet, who played a starring role in Bafana’s qualification to the Afcon with his brave performance against Libya in Tunisia.
Stuart Baxter chose Williams because of his shot-stopping abilities. It proved to be a masterstroke, with Williams producing brilliant saves to deny Jonathan Kodjia and Nicolas Pepe.
The only disappointment with that day is that Williams couldn’t keep a clean sheet and Bafana lost, putting them in a must-win situation now against Namibia on Friday.
“Since last year when we played Paraguay, when I came on in the second half, that was the turning point for me,” Williams said at Bafana’s training venue, the Aero Sports Club.
“I didn’t concede, and I played my part in the goal with distribution to Dino (Ndlovu). Last week when we played Ghana, I had a very good game.
“That was the turning point for the coach to see that I am focused, and I am much more mature in my performance.
“I don’t make as many silly mistakes as I did before. I feel that I am growing. It feels good that I am at this level, I have worked hard and I have persevered.
“I haven’t given up. When people have written me off, I have just gotten stronger.”
The big question is, how did he handle all the negativity that surrounded his appearance in Bafana colours?
Doubts lingered over his capabilities when Baxter released the starting XI hours before kickoff.
“Perseverance, that’s all. I believe in myself,” Williams said. “If I didn’t think that I was good enough, I would have retired after the Brazil game.
“But I knew that this performance is coming. I knew that I had it in me.
“It was just a matter of time to get that perfect game. This was it, with everyone watching.
“Hopefully those doubts can be put aside now, and I can build a much more positive influence around the Bafana team.”
Williams will be looking to keep the No 1 jersey when Bafana take on the Brave Warriors at Al Salam Stadium at 10pm on Friday.
At 7pm, Morocco will take on Ivory Coast in a mouth-watering clash. The Elephants and the Atlas Lions have three points, while Bafana and Namibia are yet to get off the mark.
The winner will essentially knock out the losing team as both southern African teams must win this match if they are to keep their chances of reaching the knockout stage alive.
Bafana need this victory more as their mandate is to at least reach the last-16, while Namibia are just happy with having qualified.
“It’s not going to be easy,” Williams said. “Everyone is saying that this is the easiest game for you, but I don’t think that it will be easy.
“Most of them know us. We play against them in the PSL.”