A new-look Banyana Banyana departs South Africa this afternoon for the first leg of a home-and-away series against Angola, after the coach wielded the axe to free his team of underperforming strikers.

Coach Augustine Makalakalane has brought no less than six new faces in for the squad to face Angola in the two-match series, a critical qualifier set for the All-African Games in Algeria, scheduled for June later this year.

That not before the lackadaisical input from the Angolan Football Federation, further frustrated by the Angolan Consulate in Pretoria, almost scuppered the intended travel for the South African national women’s soccer team.

Fortunately this allowed Banyana to fit in an extra preparation game on Thursday, and from accounts, the squad has not been affected by the travel documentation controversy.

“We had another day at home to play another friendly,” Fran Hilton-Smith told gsport today, “Which was very important for us to play, and we’re just happy that the (Angolan) game will take place.

“The problem with Banyana has always been that they don’t play enough International friendlies, and it’s crucial for us to play this game. Obviously, the big dream for us is to qualify for the Olympics.”

And who are the players to miss out? “Some of the big names, Veronica Phewa, Joanne Solomons, Gloria Tu, Belinda Nkosi, Disebo Mametja, Antionia Carelse, these were the big names in our strike force that didn’t deliver in Nigeria, so they’re the ones that have been dropped, and he’s selected new strikers in their place,” Hilton-Smith said earlier today.

“The coach went selecting since we came back from Nigeria, moving around the country, looking for new talent. And he found some of them in Port Elizabeth, some in Durban, so he’s done a lot of selecting, looking for new strikers.

“We’ve got six new players in the team,” said Hilton-Smith. “He’s trying out six new strikers,  and this will be a good opportunity for him to see if they are up to what’s expected.”

The new faces in the squad are Thoko Mndaweni (Sundowns Ladies FC, replacing formidable keeper Itumeleng Chimeloane), midfielder Zandile Makhupula (Liverpool Ladies EC), and strikers Phakama Duru (City Lads EC), Nomaxabiso Manto* (Liverpool Ladies), Thembelihle Thabethe* (Young Movers FC) and Nomfundo Mchunu  (Durban Ladies).

Hilton-Smith continues: (These matches are also) “… in preparation for our first Olympic qualifier, which is against Equatorial Guinea away, which is going to be extremely tough. And that’s our priority, to qualify for the Olympics, so I’m very glad that we’re playing these two games.

Senior Women’s National Team
All Africa Games Qualifier
Banyana Banyana vs Angola, 12th – 22nd January, 2007

1 Thoko Mndaweni* (Sundowns Ladies FC)
16 Bridgette Molale (Tuks FC)

6 Simphiwe Dludlu (Tuks HPC)
2 Nthabeleng Mosebo (Tuks HPC)
4 Keneilwe Mathibela (Tuks HPC)
17 Rose Jijane (Bophelong Ladies)
3 Bongiwe Radebe (Kwa-Mashu Ladies)

8 Kylie-Ann Louw (Sundowns Ladies (HPC)
9 Mamello Makhabane (HPC)
14 Memory Makhanye (Sunflower Ladies FC (HPC))
7 Zandile Makhupula* (Liverpool Ladies EC)
13 Hlengiwe Ngwane (Kwa-Mashu Ladies)
18 Nompumelelo Nyandeni (Detroit FC (HPC))

12 Portia Modise (Soweto Ladies)
10 Phakama Duru* (City Lads EC)
5 Nomaxabiso Manto* (Liverpool Ladies)
11 Thembelihle Thabethe* (Young Movers FC)
15 Nomfundo Mchunu* (Durban Ladies)

* Indicates New Banyana Banyana squad members