JOHANNESBURG - The two sides of Ronwen Williams are in constant communication with each other.
The confident and brilliant SuperSport United goalkeeper, who will lead his team in the final of the Caf Confederation Cup, nudges the 25-year-old who has had a shaky Bafana Bafana career to be a lot like the Williams of Matsatsantsa a Pitori.
“I am my own biggest critic and source of motivation,” Williams said. “I have been able to be SuperSport’s No 1 this long because of constantly looking to improve. It all boils down to what I want as an individual. I want to be my team’s No 1 and I want to be the best goalkeeper in South Africa.
"At the start of every season I set goals for myself after evaluating how I performed the last season. If I don’t reach my goals, I work even harder the following season to be better. People think that disappointment and criticism brings me down. But that’s not the case. It actually pushes me to improve.”
Having struggled to make a name for himself on the continent with Bafana, thanks to his shaky performances and Itumeleng Khune’s brilliance, Williams has been doing what he can’t do with the national team at his club. The lad from Port Elizabeth was a calm figure in Rades as SuperSport beat Club Africain 3-1 on Sunday to set up a meeting with TP Mazembe in the two-legged Confederation Cup final next month.
Even with Morgan Gould and Clayton Daniels clearing the ball off the line, after Williams was beaten, the keeper still looked comfortable - unlike he is with Bafana. The difference is that his club teammates trust him, Williams having bailed them out for a number of years.
But it’s different with Bafana as he has needed bailing out in the few matches he has donned the No 1 jersey. The better he performs for SuperSport, especially on the continent, the more he’ll grow in confidence and become a better goalkeeper for the national team.
“The change in mind-set regarding continental competitions has really helped us as a country,” Williams said. “What (Orlando) Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns did, opened our eyes and ensured that we (can) play anywhere on the continent without fear. Our ambition is to put SuperSport on the African map and grow the SuperSport brand on the continent. The only way to do that is to play in this space consistently and do well.”
The Tshwane side returned from Tunisia on Tuesday morning high on confidence as not only the MTN8 champions, but also Confederation Cup finalists - giving South Africa's capital the rare privilege of being the only SA city to produce back-to-back finalists in continental club competitions.
The traditional power might still reside in Soweto with Kaizer Chiefs and Pirates, who have the biggest supporter base and have dominated the football scene longer - but Tshwane is moving closer to becoming SA's football powerhouse.
Williams even tied himself to Matsatsantsa until 2022 in July, despite reported interest from the Buccaneers who ended up signing Wayne Sandilands from the Brazilians. Sandilands and Williams have been deputising for Khune at Bafana with Darren Keet injured. At SuperSport, Williams is the undisputed No 1 even after the arrival of Reyaad Pieterse who brought tougher competition for the spot. It’s not just SuperSport’s goalposts that Williams calls home, the club itself is his home as he grew up there. He is also their longest serving player.
In his 12 years there, the club has never been this close to being successful in Africa. Their previous best showing was reaching the group stage of the Caf Champions League in 2004 - the year Williams was scouted by the club at the Danone Under-12 tournament in Polokwane and the Schools Winter Sports Games in Pietermaritzburg, before joining SuperSport's academy the following year.
“The mindset has shifted a lot. We told ourselves we want to start the season by winning the MTN8 and the Confederation Cup. Our mentality is strong which makes us able to do what we set our sights on,” Williams said.