South Africa coach Desiree Ellis has named her squad to defend their title at the 2019 COSAFA Women’s Championship that will be staged in Nelson Mandela Bay from July 31-August 11.
She has named a strong selection for the regional championship, making only six changes to the squad that participated at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, mostly due to the unavailability of players.
The only one of Banyana Banyana’s overseas-based players who is available for the tournament is Malaga forward Ode Fulutudilu, with the rest all absent due to club commitments.
Ellis has included three new caps in midfielder Priscilla Pesa, striker Shange Sthembile and defender Noxolo Cesane, while midfielders Hilda Magaia, Ongeziwe Ndlangisa and Robyn Moodaly have been recalled.
“We have had to make changes to the squad due to the unavailability of the overseas players,” Ellis said. “While we would have loved to have everyone available, this also gives a chance to other players to stake their claim in the squad, hence the three new caps in Priscilla, Shange and Noxolo.
“Also bear in mind that we are in the new Olympics 2020 and 2023 World Cup cycle, and the COSAFA Cup serves as preparations for the 2020 Olympic qualifier against Botswana at the end of August – so this works in our favour to try out other players and see just how much talent we have going forward.”
Youngsters Mapaseka Mpuru, Karabo Dhlamini and Sibulele Holweni – who all went to France – were not considered for this year’s COSAFA Cup due to school work.
Banyana Banyana have been drawn in Group A alongside Comoros Islands, Malawi and Madagascar.
Group B contains Zambia, Namibia, Mauritius and Botswana. Zimbabwe headline Group C, where they will take on Mozambique, Angola and Eswatini.
Only the top team in each pool advances to the semifinals, along with the best second-place finisher.
South Africa are five-time winners of the COSAFA Women’s Championship.
They stormed to the 2002 title, beating Zimbabwe 2-1 in the final as they won all five of their games, scoring 36 goals in the process.
That included huge victories over Botswana (14-0) and Mozambique (13-0) in the pool stages.
It was more of the same in 2006 as they won both group stages games against Lesotho (9-0) and Malawi (3-0), before a 4-1 victory over Zimbabwe in the semifinals. They beat Namibia 3-1 in the final to pick up gold.
A clash of fixtures meant they sent an Under-20 side to the 2008 championships, but still won all of their games, including a 3-1 victory over hosts Angola in the final.
But their run was ended by Zimbabwe in the decider in 2011, leaving them with a record of 26 wins from 29 games in the COSAFA Women’s Championships.
They regained their title in 2017 as wins over Lesotho (3-0) and Namibia (3-1) saw them into the knockout stages, where they came from 3-0 down with 13 minutes remaining to draw 3-3 with Zambia and win on penalties.
That set up a final with Zimbabwe, where South Africa ran out 2-1 winners.
They had to do it the hard way again in 2018 as wins over Madagascar (2-1), Botswana (1-0) and Malawi (6-0) in the pool stages was followed by a 2-0 success over East African guest nation Uganda in the semifinals and a 2-1 victory over Central African guests Cameroon in the decider.
The side will be fresh from competing at their first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup having taken part in the 2019 installment in France, the first COSAFA nation to reach the global showpiece event.
South Africa squad:
Goalkeepers: Andile Dlamini (Mamelodi Sundowns), Kaylin Swart (Golden Stars)
Defenders: Lebogang Ramalepe (Ma-Indies FC), Janine van Wyk (JVW FC), Noko Matlou (Ma-Indies FC), Bambanani Mbane (Bloemfontein Celtic), Noxolo Cesane (UWC), Tiisetso Makhubela (Mamelodi Sundowns), Bongeka Gamede (UWC)
Midfielders: Mamello Makhabane (JVW FC), Busisiwe Ndimeni (Tuks Ladies), Refiloe Jane (unattached), Kholosa Biyana (UKZN), Robyn Moodaly (JVW FC), Hildah Magaia (TUT-PTA), Ongeziwe Ndlangisa (DUT Durban), Priscilla Pesa (Golden Ladies)
Forwards: Amanda Mthandi (University of Johannesburg), Ode Fulutudilu (unattached), Sthembile Shange (Durban Ladies).