Certain players appear destined for greatness, but before they reach the seemingly picture-perfect lifestyle of PSL superstars, decades of sacrifice have passed. Having left Port Elizabeth at the tender age of thirteen, Ronwen Williams adaptation to life in Tshwane wasn’t without proverbial bumps in the road. He’s previously admitted that a family tragedy tempted him to throw in the towel as a youth player, but these challenges have well and truly been the measure of the man.
The ABSA Premiership Young Player of the Season in 2011/12 was so often linked with moves away from Supersport United, but the young father’s loyalty to the cause has never come into question. Featuring in every minute of every competition in 2019, the 27-year-old Williams kept fourteen clean sheets out of a possible thirty-seven; an impressive return in the eyes of any gloveman. And whilst Matsatsantsa a Pitori finished third in the PSL and lost to Cape Town City in the MTN8 final, Ronwen’s individual performances were enough to fill him with the confidence needed to take on Africa’s best.
“The vibe in the camp is good, the spirits are high” Williams explained, following the team’s victory over Egypt. “We knew before the game that they were beatable, and we studied a few of their previous matches. Bafana like playing in high stake games and it was enjoyable”.
Credit for the victory has rightfully been extended to the coaching team, and Ronwen was more than willing to describe the game plan in its masterful simplicity. “We had a perfect game plan. We changed the formation and the way we wanted to play. We pressed high and wanted them (Egypt) to kick long balls to Salah, because that’s not his strength. The front six did an amazing job for us, and it allowed the back four to track their runners at the right times. It was much easier for us at the back and a good team performance. A brilliant game plan from the coaches”.
Pundits have heaped praise on the national team’s willingness to press high from the opening minutes, forcing a mismatch of 4 vs 3 at the back (in favour of the South Africans). This proved to nullify the wonderous abilities of Mohamed Salah and Trézéguet, in a tactical display that accomplished the mission at hand. Even more impressive was the team’s ability to overcome the fanatical home support in Cairo.
“There’s nothing better than silencing 75 000 people” Williams says with a slight grin. “When that goal went in, it was pure silence, as if someone had died! But to leave the field after the final whistle and be applauded by the Egyptian fans, that was special. They obviously weren’t happy to lose, but it’s a sign of a good country; a country that loves and supports good football”.
With the proposition of facing Nigeria ahead of him, Ronwen embraces the challenge of standing toe to toe with the Super Eagles. “We’ve played them in the qualifiers and took four points off them. We beat them in their own back yard, so we believe that we can get the better of them”.
Accepting that Bafana performed below expectations in the group stages, he makes a point to thank the nation for standing behind the team and continuing to send positive messages and energy to their camp. “With your good wishes and support, the future could be bright for this team”. Certainly, music to our ears.