Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis has announced a squad of 20 players to participate in the 2018 COSAFA Women’s Championship that will take place in Port Elizabeth from 12-22 September.
South Africa are the defending champions after defeating hosts Zimbabwe 2-1 in the final last year. Ellis has kept the bulk of the squad that has played in the Banyana Banyana’s last match – the 2018 AFCON qualifier against Lesotho in June, calling up only one new cap – Thato Letsoso.
The hosts will also have the services of Janine van Wyk, Linda Motlhalo and Thembi Kgatlana, who play their football in the USA for Houston Dash. They last featured for Banyana Banyana in March at the Cyprus Women’s Cup, where Kgatlana was voted Best Player of the Tournament.
“This is the best news we have received ahead of this tournament!” – Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis.
“We are delighted to have the trio back with us after such a long absence from the squad. We hope their experience will be valuable to the squad in our quest to build a solid foundation ahead of the AFCON tournament later this year,” said Ellis.
Van Wyk is the highest capped player in the squad with 149 caps and 11 goals, and will reach the magical 150 when she steps onto the field during the COSAFA Cup.
She is currently the most capped player in the country – both male and female – and also the highest capped female on the continent.
The Banyana Banyana captain is followed by striker Noko Matlou who is on 141, while midfielder Nompumelelo Nyandeni is two appearances adrift on 139. Also called up for the tournament is USA-based goalkeeper, Kaylin Swart. But Banyana Banyana will be without Leandra Smeda due to club commitments.
She played a pivotal role in the helping Banyana Banyana lift the trophy in 2017. Smeda, who recently signed for a new club in Lithuania, is involved in the UEFA Women’s Champions League qualifiers after her side proceeded to the round of 32. Her place has been taken by the uncapped Thato Letsoso of the University of Johannesburg.
“While we are getting three players from the USA, we are also losing an influential player due to club commitments.” – Desiree Ellis
“I guess you can’t have it all. But on the other hand, this is a chance for other players to raise their hands and close the gap. We can only wish her luck in her new endeavours, hopefully she will be back with us for the big one, the AFCON,” added Ellis.
The other good news for Banyana Banyana is that vice captain Refiloe Jane, who has just been snapped up by Canberra United in Australia, will be available for the COSAFA Cup and will leave for her new home after the tournament – she was due to leave on Wednesday, 29 August.
Ellis has also included four stand-by players, who will travel and stay with the team in Port Elizabeth until the tournament starts, and then return home. The quartet is Zanele Nhlapo (Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies), Tiisetso Makhubela (Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies), Salome Kekana (TUT-PTA) and Khanya Xesi (UWC FC).
South Africa will use the tournament to prepare for the 2018 AFCON, which is just two months away.
“First of all we have to do well as the defending champions, secondly we are playing at home and the pressure is on us, and lastly, but perhaps more importantly, this is a good opportunity for us to gel our squad in good physical condition to prepare for AFCON.
“We will use COSAFA to fine tune our squad for AFCON.” – Desiree Ellis
“The longer we stay in the COSAFA Cup,” said Ellis, “The more we will get our players to gel ahead of the Ghana mission.”
There are 12 teams in the 2018 COSAFA CUP – South Africa (hosts), Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, as well as two invited guests – Cameroon (Central Africa) and Uganda (East Africa).
Cameroon is the highest-ranked nation in the competition, followed by the hosts.
Only the trio of Banyana Banyana, Zimbabwe and Cameroon has qualified for the 2018 AFCON tournament. The 2018 COSAFA Women’s Championship will be the SIXTH EDITION of the tournament.
Banyana Banyana has won this tournament on four occasions – 2002, 2006, 2008 and 2017 – and finished as runners in 2011.
The squad assembles for camp on Monday, 3 September and departs for Port Elizabeth on the same day where they will hold their training camp ahead of the tournament.
Banyana Bayana Squad for the 2018 COSAFA Women’s Championship:
Goalkeepers: Kaylin Swart (Menlo College USA), Roxanne Barker (USC Ladies), Andile Dlamini (Mamelodi Sundowns)
Defenders: Lebohang Ramalepe (Ma-Indies), Nothando Vilakazi (Falcons FC), Janine van Wyk (c) Houston Dash USA), Bambanani Mbane (Bloemfontein Celtics), Regina Mogolola (TUKS).
Midfielders: Kgaelebane Mohlakoana (Celtics), Kholosa Biyana (Uni KZN), Refiloe Jane (Canberra), Thato Letsoso (Uni JHB), Nompumelelo Nyandeni (JVW), Hildah Magaia (TUT-PTA), Linda Motlhalo, Thembi Kgatlana (Houston Dash).
Strikers: Jermaine Seoposenwe (JVW), Melinda Kgadiete (Bloemfontein), Chantelle Esau (Sundowns Ladies), Noko Matlou (Ma-Indies)
Zanele Nhlapo (Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies), Tiisetso Makhubela (Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies), Salome Kekana (TUT-PTA), Khanya Xesi (UWC FC)
Photo 1 caption: Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis is delighted at the availability of Houston Dash-signed Janine van Wyk, Linda Motlhalo and Thembi Kgatlana, while acknowledging the unavailability of Leandra Smeda due to club commitments. Photo: SAFA
With editing by gsport