Cape Town - Banyana Banyana begin their 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations campaign with a tough Group C opener against defending champions and perennial nemesis Nigeria in Rabat on Monday.
It is the start of the path to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, and coach Des Ellis’ side must finish in the top four in Morocco to qualify automatically and avoid tough inter-continental play-offs.
Ellis has named her squad, which is at full-strength, bar the absence of winger Gabriela Salgado due to injury.
Here are five players Banyana will rely on heavily for success at the continental finals.
Matlou is still going strong at the age of 36 and remains a cornerstone of the backline for Banyana, having started her international career as a feared striker.
It was on that basis that she was named African Women's Footballer of the Year in 2008, but over time has moved further back down the pitch and is now an accomplished centre-back.
She spent the last two seasons at Spanish side Eibar, though they were relegated from the top division at the end of the 2021/22 season.
Jane is the anchor in the midfield and a player with the vision to unlock any defence. She was discovered at the Gauteng Future Championships competition in 2009 as a 16-year-old and quickly became a fixture in the national team.
She played for Mamelodi Sundowns before later moving to Australian side Canberra United, and then AC Milan in Italy, where she has spent the last three seasons.
She has opted not to renew with the club and will be hoping a strong showing in Morocco catches the eye of the bigger teams in Europe.
Motlhalo has all the silky skills to run any midfield and now has vast experience after playing overseas, adding great football intelligence to her game.
Former Banyana coach Vera Pauw said Motlhalo could become one of the leading players in the world given her ability, and while that has not happened yet, she is still only 23 and has plenty of growth left in her.
She has already played in the best league in the world, the National Women’s Soccer League with Houston Dash, and turned out for Beijing BG Phoenix in China and current Swedish club Djurgardens.
She certainly has goals in her game but is also a creator for others.
Seoposenwe, the winger/forward, makes a return to the national side after three years and also having just left Portuguese side Sporting Braga.
The 28-year-old will be a welcome, experienced attacking addition to the squad having made her national team debut all the way back in 2010.
She has plenty of running in her and can deliver fantastic balls from wide areas, having also featured for Real Betis in Spain.
Kgatlana’s game is all about pace and skill and she must be one of the quickest forwards in the women’s game.
She is able to run in behind defences and also has a rocket shot, as she showed in both the last women’s Cup of Nations in 2018, and with her goal against Spain in the 2019 World Cup in France.
The 26-year-old was a teammate of Motlhalo in Houston and Beijing, but also played for Benfica in Portugal, and Spanish clubs Eibar and Atletico Madrid.
She is a player with a real x-factor and a huge weapon for Banyana.