Ellis to use friendly to blood new players
After losing to Japan at the Kitakyushu Stadium in Fukuoka late last year, the South Africans will get a chance to get back to winning ways when they put on their green and yellow jersey on Sunday at Tsakane Stadium when they host Lesotho in an international friendly.
This will be Banyana’s second international friendly in succession after the match against the Japanese, having been booted out of this year’s Tokyo Olympic Games qualifiers by Botswana early in September, ensuring that the Under-23 mens side will be the only flag bearers in the global showpiece.
However, Ellis is not crying over spilt milk. But instead she’s using the few opportunities that are coming her way to strengthen her pool of players by introducing new faces into the fold as there’s still the small matter of the 2021 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (Awcon) qualifiers later this year.
For Sunday’s match, the Kuilsrivier-born coach has called up 10 uncapped players. Goalkeeper Mapaseka Mpuru, Jessica Williams and Neliswa Luthuli have tasted the national team set-up before but are yet to don the national team jersey.
On the other hand, it was all jubilation for seven newbies - Xiluva Tshabalala, Karabo Makhurubetshi, Nonhlanhla Mthandi, Nomsa Mathonsi, Pride Nthite, Oratile Mokwena and Lorraine Makhoali - who received their first call-ups to the senior national team.
“You always want your best players to play but I spoke to all the players that are not on camp on why we selected this group - so early in the year. It’s cycle to prepare, not only for Afcon, but for the 2023 World Cup,” said Ellis.
“Whether we like it or, we have to look into the future. We have to have to make sure if a player stays out for a long time, decides to retire or whatever else happens, we already have a replacement in place and not get caught out if that eventually happens.
“And I think that we are already on the right track where that is concerned.”
In assembling her squad, Ellis has called up four players - Oratile Mokwena, Sibulele Holweni, Dhlamini and Noxolo Cesane - from the Under-20 women’s team (Basetsana), who’ll play Botswana in the Under-20 Women’s World Cup qualifiers this month.
“I think the development structures have been good. I think we’ve seen what the U17 and U20 have done.
“I don’t think Karabo (Dlamini) and Sibulele (Holweni) imagined in their wildest dreams they’d go from one to the other, playing in two different World Cups, U17 and seniors. But that’s quality that they bring,” Ellis explained.
The omission of the overseas players could prove to be a masterstroke by Ellis. After all, after a number of playing personnel secured moves abroad in recent months, they’ll be hoping to use the time off to find their feet at their new homes.