Bafana’s Ronwen Williams looking for the cherry on top in Afcon climax

South Africa's goalkeeper Ronwen Williams (C) celebrates with teammates after winning at the end of the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2024 quarter-final football match between Cape Verde and South Africa at the Stade Charles Konan Banny in Yamoussoukro

Captain Ronwen Williams (pictured centre) hopes his Bafana Bafana teammates finish the Africa Cup of Nations on a high. Picture: Franck Fife/AFP

Published Feb 9, 2024


Captain Ronwen Williams hopes his Bafana Bafana teammates finish the Africa Cup of Nations on a high when they face the Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday.

Bafana will compete for a third-place finish against the DRC in Abidjan on Saturday night (10pm kick-off, SA time) after losing in the semi-final against Nigeria on Wednesday.

Bafana lost 4-2 to the Super Eagles in a drama-filled penalty shoot-out after the match had ended 1-1 after extra time.

The result hurt Bafana as they punched above their weight to get to the semi-finals, after their performances prior to Afcon had failed to inspire confidence.

Bafana turning the corner

But having turned the doubting Thomases into admirers, the South Africans want to build on the positive momentum.

And this includes beating the DRC for the bronze medal at Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny in Abidjan.

“Definitely, (the hard work doesn’t end now). Like I said, the team deserved to be in the final,” Williams told the Safa media unit the morning after their semi-final heartache.

“We need to recover ... and on Saturday, we need to go out there and finish on a positive note.

“We’ve done extremely well in this tournament. The cherry on the top would be finishing on a positive note on Saturday. We’ll be fully focused and prepare accordingly, and the camp will still be on.”

The positive energy that has surrounded the national team has many a supporter already believing that they can win Afcon next year in Morocco.

After all, Morocco, who will be one of the favourites, went down to the South Africans in the last 16 of the Afcon, losing 2-0 in regulation time.

And for Bafana to reach that phase of the tournament and excel was a dream come true as most critics felt that they didn’t stand a chance against the highest-ranked nation on the continent.

‘Go as far as we could’

“We wanted to go as far as we could in the tournament, and our main goal was to exit the group stage,” defender Siyanda Xulu added.

“When we qualified for the knockout stage, that made us proud as a team. We wanted to go as far as we could. It was a dream for us to reach the quarter-final and the semis.

“We are aware that we still have a game to play, (for) the third-place position. But we are proud of ourselves, though we wanted to reach the final.”

Bafana will be favourites to win against the DRC, who went down to a late second-half Sebastien Haller goal against hosts Ivory Coast in their semi-final on Wednesday.

But Bafana cannot allow themselves to be complacent, as Williams said. They have struggled to get wins when they were favourites, especially against so-called minnows.

And with the DRC having given Bafana a run for their money in the 1-0 win at Orlando Stadium last year, they will know that they’ll underestimate them at their own peril.