They cantered to yet another Cosafa title, but now the serious business starts for Banyana Banyana in their bid to play at the Women’s World Cup.
The South African ladies are fortunate to have secured a two-match series against Chile in South America, with the first game taking place in Vina del Mar on Saturday (11.30pm SA time).
Chile have already qualified for the 2019 World Cup – their first time – in France next June and July.
For Banyana to join them, they will need to finish in the top three at next month’s African Women’s Championship (AWC) in Ghana.
That is why captain Janine van Wyk knows that the Chile encounters are a vital part of getting ready for the AWC.
“It will be a great test for us, preparing for the AWC and to see where the team is at the moment – what we need to work on and improve on, and for the coach to select the team for the AWC,” Van Wyk said in an interview on the Safa website.
“Winning the Cosafa has boosted our confidence a lot. But there is a little bit of pressure, as all eyes are on us and people just expect good results.
“It will be good for us to see what we can learn, and if we do really well, then we are know we are a step ahead of where we need to be.
“There is a lot of pressure on the players, and a lot of new players. So you have to showcase yourself as the coach needs to select the team for the AWC.”
Coach Desiree Ellis was not entirely happy with her team’s performance in the Cosafa Women’s Championship in Port Elizabeth last month.
She was frustrated by the number of goal-scoring chances that were missed, as well as the style of football played.
Banyana needed a late winner by Refiloe Jane to beat Cameroon 2-1 in the final, and Van Wyk feels that they will have to be much better to stand a chance at the AWC.
“With the last game against Cameroon, we didn’t always play our best football, and made it difficult for ourselves,” she said.
“We want to play our game of football under high pressure against Chile, and know which areas we need to improve on.
“There are a lot of nerves, and it is going to be a difficult game for us as we haven’t seen much of them.
“You can only take so much from the videos, and we don’t know how the crowd will be. But if we can settle in after five or 10 minutes, our confidence can build from there.”
Meanwhile, Banyana were welcomed by the SA ambassador to Chile, Thabo Thage.
“You are in the news, you are the talk of the town since you are the first African Women’s National Team to visit Chile and to play here,” Thage said.
“What is even more pleasing is that your visit coincides with the Centenary Celebrations of Madiba – we are eternally grateful for your presence.
“So go out there and have fun, and show them what we are made of. We are positive you will get good results. On the other hand, this historic (visit) has given us an idea to start a co-operation agreement with Chile for the benefit of many South Africans.”
Proud moment! Welcoming the COSAFA Champions, Banyana Banyana, to Chile 🙌🏾🙌🏾🇿🇦 pic.twitter.com/ZC3nInl1bV