Banyana Banyana’s mentality and experience will be tested in the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) qualifiers against Burkina Faso on Thursday and on Monday.
Banyana have been the best team in Africa in recent months, setting records by winning the Nations Cup and reaching the World Cup last 16 for the first time.
But now that they are top, the challenge is maintaining all that they’ve achieved and doing even better.
Sure, they’ve improved already, progressing to the third round of the Olympic qualifiers after beating the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) 4-1 on aggregate last month.
However, the last round of the Wafcon qualifiers should pose their biggest challenge yet, with Burkina Faso a potential banana skin.
Speaking during the announcement of her 24-member squad at Safa House last week, coach Desiree Ellis sounded like someone who knows what’s at stake.
And that’s why she decided to announce a squad of 24 players, which will be trimmed to 23 before they travel – to prepare for any withdrawals due to visa issues, exam schedules or injuries.
The three eventualities gave Ellis more grey hair prior to the Olympic qualifiers, with players completely missing out, while others could only feature in certain games.
With all the measures that were put in place to avoid a repeat of the disappointment of the 2020 Olympic qualifier against Botswana, Ellis is more prepared for the Wafcon qualifiers.
Experienced defender Noko Matlou is also back in the set-up having missed out on the Olympic qualifier, which forced Ellis to have a relatively youthful and inexperienced defence.
And that’s not all. Banyana will face Burkina Faso in the first leg in Yamoussokro, Ivory Coast, tomorrow with some of the players who recently made history in the country at her disposal.
Andile Dlamini, Karabo
Dhlamini, Kholosa Biyana and Lebogang Ramalepe were all part of the Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies team that won the Champions League in Korhogo a fortnight ago. *
Their experience, and that of the other local or overseas-based players who have either concluded their respective league seasons or are close to doing so, should come in handy.
This Wafcon qualifier is also earmarked to give Banyana’s longestserving captain, Janine van Wyk, a historic swansong.
Should Van Wyk – who is on 183 caps – play in both matches, she’d become the most capped player in Africa, male or female, with 185 caps, leapfrogging Ahmed Hassan of Egypt.