South Africa's Ronwen Williams in action in Cairo. Photo: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

CAPE TOWN - Goalkeeper Ronwen Williams was the best player on show in Bafana Bafana’s 1-0 defeat to the Ivory Coast in their opening 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group D fixture on Monday.

Now the 27-year-old SuperSport United number one needs to continue in the same vein when the South African national football squad heads into their next Group D Afcon fixture – against Namibia at Cairo’s Al Salam Stadium on Friday.

In the build-up to the opening Afcon match, it was always evident that Bafana coach Stuart Baxter had made up his mind regarding the nucleus of his starting team. The only question that was unclear was who Baxter would play in goal: Williams or Darren Keet?

Keet, a 29-year-old Capetonian, was in the Ajax Cape Town youth academy and also played amateur football for Bothasig and Edgemead. He came to prominence in the professional ranks with Vasco da Gama and went on to star for Bidvest Wits. He has also had a spell in Belgium with KV Kortrijk.

In Bafana’s crunch final Afcon qualifying match – against Libya in March this year – Keet was magnificent as the South Africans booked their tickets to the continental showpiece event in Egypt.

Ronwen Williams makes a save from Ivory Coast's Nicolas Pepe from a free kick. Photo: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

As such, it was expected that Keet was the front-runner to start the opening Afcon match against the Ivory Coast.

Baxter surprised all and sundry, though, by opting for Williams.

He explained why: “When we played against Libya, we played with three centre backs because their strength was getting in lots of crosses. But that was not the strength of the Ivory Coast.

“This was a different game. Darren (Keet) was suited for that game against Libya and he has also been a little bit more inactive.

“Ronwen (Williams) was more suited for this game (against Ivory Coast). His shot-stopping, and his quick distribution would be important. I thought Ronwen did very well.”

Keet’s inactivity at his club Bidvest Wits for the latter half of last season was because of his refusal to sign a new contract. The goalkeeper is keen to continue his career overseas.

As such, Wits coach Gavin Hunt omitted Keet from his starting team, saying that he needed to plan for the future. If Keet wasn’t going to be around for the new season, he needed to start grooming the team’s next number one keeper.

Ivory Coast's Jonathan Kodjia in action with South Africa's Ronwen Williams. Photo: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Williams, though, certainly deserves his place in the Bafana team. He has been a model of consistency for SuperSport for a long time. More than that, he is also the reigning Goalkeeper of the Season in the PSL.

Looking back at his performances against the Ivory Coast, the two saves he pulled off to deny strikes from Jonathon Kodjia and Nicholas Pepe will linger in memory for some time.

With Williams having performed so well in Bafana’s opening match, it’s a no-brainer that he will start against Namibia on Friday. 

African News Agency (ANA)