Hosts South Africa will hope to capture the trophy that eluded them last season when they take part in the 2020 COSAFA Women’s Under-17 Championship to be staged in Nelson Mandela Bay from November 4-14.
South Africa were runners-up to powerful East African side Uganda in Mauritius last year, but will have learnt a lot from that experience as they also build towards the final round of African qualifiers for the 2021 FIFA Women’s Under-17 World Cup scheduled for India.
They will have a familiar face in charge in the form of coach Simphiwe Dludlu, who also doubles up as the national Under-20 mentor.
It ensures a smooth path for the players between the age groups, and the kind of continuity that is important in the younger age-groups.
Former Banyana Banyana international Dludlu has already masterminded the side to the brink of the World Cup, having guided them to the 2018 finals in Uruguay, a squad that included national team stars such as Jessica Wade, Sibulele Holweni and Karabo Dhlamini.
Indeed, South Africa are the most successful of the COSAFA nations in this age-group having twice before qualified for the FIFA Women’s Under-17 World Cup, also reaching the finals in 2010.
They also reached the final of last year’s COSAFA Women’s Under-17 Championship, but were undone by the excellent Uganda, who proved too good in a 2-1 success in the decider.
There was much to admire about South Africa along the way though, they claimed an African international record 28-0 scoreline in their opener against Seychelles.
That was followed by pool stage wins over Botswana (5-1) and Madagascar (3-1) as they claimed a 100% record.
They edged Zambia 2-1 in a tough semifinal, but finally came unstuck against the Ugandans.
They are also still in with a chance of winning a place at the 2021 FIFA Women’s World Cup in India, where they will face Morocco in the final round of qualifying.
After a bye in the first round, they edged Zambia 3-2 on aggregate to advance to the third stage. Zambia won the first leg 2-0 at home, but South Africa roared back to claim the second 3-0.
Their first shot at the global finals came in 2008 when they lost 3-0 on aggregate to Cameroon in the second round after having a walkover win over Botswana in the first.
They humbled Botswana 22-1 over two legs in the 2010 qualifiers, but then lost 7-1 on aggregate to Nigeria to miss out on an automatic place at the finals.
They went into a play-off with Tunisia though and after a 1-0 away win and 1-1 draw, booked a place in Trinidad & Tobago.
There they found the going tough, with defeats to South Korea (1-3), Germany (1-10) and Mexico (0-4), but a number of that squad, including Robyn Moodaly, Jermaine Seoposenwe and Kaylin Swart have gone on to have successful careers.
South Africa beat Namibia 6-1 on aggregate in the qualifiers for 2012, but a 5-1 aggregate loss to Ghana in the next stage meant there would be no finals for them.
A year later they were surprisingly defeated by Zambia in the second round after a 3-3 away draw was followed by a 3-1 home loss.
In 2015 they received a walkover win over Zambia, but in the final stage of qualifying lost 7-0 on aggregate to Nigeria.
They were back at the global finals in 2018 though as a 11-6 aggregate win over Botswana was followed by a 6-1 aggregate success over Morocco.
They meant they played at the FIFA event in Uruguay, where they again showed improved performance, but could not get out of their pool.
A 0-0 draw with Mexico was followed by a 6-0 loss to Japan and a 4-1 defeat to Brazil.