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 Williams. Speaking at the launch of Castle’s It’s Within campaign on Wednesday at Imbizo Shisanyama in Tembisa, 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.”
Williams argues that coach Hugo Broos’ selections should come as no surprise.
“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 we just need to continue working hard and doing the 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 eighth-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, 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.
“We have a massive ‘cup final’ coming up against Pirates. We are the only team that hasn’t been out of the top eight in the history of the PSL and that is a proud record for the club. We don’t want to be the ones who messed it up,” he concluded.
Bafana will take on Morocco on June 9 at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in the North African country’s coastal city of Rabat.
Goalkeepers: Ronwen Williams (SuperSport), Veli Mothwa (AmaZulu), Bruce Bvuma (Chiefs)
Defenders: Nyiko Mobbie (Sekhukhune), Khuliso Mudau, Grant Kekana, Lyle Lakay (Sundowns), Bandile Shandu, Innocent Maela (Pirates), Thibang Phete (Belenenses, Portugal), Taariq Fielies, Terrence Mashego (Cape Town City)
Midfielders: Sphephelo Sithole (Belenenses, Portugal), Goodman Mosele (Pirates), Yusuf Maart (Sekhukhune), Phathutshedzo Nange (Chiefs)
Forwards: Thembinkosi Lorch (Pirates), Evidence Makgopa (Baroka), Khanyisa Mayo (City), Fagrie Lakay (Pyramids, Egypt), Lyle Foster (Westerlo, Belgium), Bongokuhle Hlongwane (Minnesota, USA), Percy Tau (Al Ahly, Egypt)