Kaylin Swart can be the ‘full product’ for Banyana Banyana

Banyana goalkeeper Kaylin Swart, seen here in action during last year’s World Cup, is set to start against Nigeria in the final Olympic qualifier. Photo: AFP

Banyana goalkeeper Kaylin Swart, seen here in action during last year’s World Cup, is set to start against Nigeria in the final Olympic qualifier. Photo: AFP

Published Mar 27, 2024


Kaylin Swart conforms to the norm that “goalkeepers have the loneliest job in football” after her previous misfortunes, but argues that quitting was never an option.

It is unusual for coaches to chop and change their starting players before the World Cup, but such are the nerves of steel of Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis that she tore up the script at the global event in Australia and New Zealand last year.

Swart ascended to the Banyana No 1 jersey, something that shocked their fans, as Andile Dlamini had held the fort for some time.

In her defence, Ellis stressed that Dlamini wasn’t match-fit after a lengthy spell on the sidelines, while Swart offered the team more in build-up play as well.

Swart earned her pay cheque for Banyana, helping the team reach the round of 16 in just their second participation in the World Cup finals.

Fast forward to after the World Cup and Swart has retained her No 1 spot, and is just two matches away from helping Banyana qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Swart is set to start against arch-rivals Nigeria in the coming two-legged final qualifier, on April 5 away from home and at home four days later.

Her place is all but confirmed by the withdrawal of Dlamini from the qualifiers due to medical reasons.

And should Banyana reach the promised land, that would be some achievement after missing out on the Olympics in Tokyo in 2021.

Speaking during Banyana’s media event yesterday at the University of Pretoria, Swart reflected on the highs and lows of her international career.

“Being a goalkeeper is not easy. There’s always going to be mistakes, but it’s also (about) how you bounce back from them,” Swart explained.

“Our position is probably criticised the most. But I think if I continue to build myself – my confidence and belief that I can achieve – I think I’ll be strong mentally.

“But from where I started to where I am now, the growth that I have achieved is immense. I can only thank my coaches for instilling that confidence.

“So, I must keep growing. I am not done yet. I am not a full product yet. But it’s about working on it every day and trying to improve.”

Swart and Co had to overcome a lot of adversity against DR Congo, Burkina Faso and Tanzania to reach the final round of the qualifiers against Nigeria, which included injuries, visa issues and varsity exams.

However, they’ve been boosted by the return of some senior players, including Refiloe Jane from a lengthy injury.

Jane is the team leader on and off the pitch. Hence, Swart couldn’t contain her excitement at having her captain and friend back in the fold.

“Refiloe is obviously one of the leaders – the glue (that keeps) most of us together, especially on the field of play,” Swart said.

“So yeah, her presence has been missed. We are so excited to have her back – me personally because I have such a good relationship with her.

“I think her coming back is a boost to the coaches and us as players. She has such an important role in the midfield. She conducts whatever happens on the field.”

Jane’s work is cut out for her. She’ll have to step in against the Super Falcons, who’ve forged an intense rivalry with South Africa.

Banyana and Nigeria are seen as the toast of Africa following recent successes, but it’s been the South Africans who have won recent battles.

Banyana beat Nigeria in their last two meetings: the 2022 Women’s Afcon in Morocco and 2021 Aisha Buhari Cup in their own backyard, tournaments that Banyana went on to win.

“Nigeria is a very tough place to go to, but we’ve had some success in that country. It’s going to be another tough battle, but we are ready for it,” Swart said.

“We are in season now (in the SA Super League), so I think we’ve improved a lot. Our teams have improved, and the level of individuality has improved.

“So, I think the coaches are excited. Obviously, now we are preparing for the game coming up and we are all in very high spirits as individuals and as a team.”