South Africa coach Desiree Ellis has named her strongest possible squad with a host of overseas-based players for the 2018 COSAFA Women’s Championship to be staged in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality from September 12-22.
Ellis has made a massive show of intent by naming such an experienced squad as she seeks to retain the title the side won last year when they beat Zimbabwe 2-1 in the final in Bulawayo.
She will also use the tournament as build-up to the African Women’s Championship that will be staged in Ghana from November 17, which serves as a qualifier for the 2019 FIFA World Cup in France.
“It’s been an amazing year for the team, playing the tournament at home will add a little pressure, but I am confident we will defend our title,” Ellis said.
“We must be in superb physical condition for the tournament, while goal-scoring is still something of concern.
“We will use the COSAFA Women’s Championship to prepare for the African Women’s Championship in December, where our main target is to qualify for our maiden Women’s World Cup.”
Ellis has called up her three top overseas stalwarts, captain Janine van Wyk and midfielders Linda Motlhalo and Thembi Kgatlana, who all play with Houston Dash in the National Women’s Soccer League in the United States.
They finished their season on September 8 and then face a dash back to South Africa for the start of the COSAFA Women’s Championship, the club have a very slim chance of reaching the play-offs.
Also included is new Canberra United signing Refiloe Jane, who is also set to be a key part of the team.
South Africa will learn their first round fate on Wednesday at 11h00 when the draw is held for the pool stages of the COSAFA Women’s Championship, with Central African side Cameroon and East African outfit Uganda also in the mix as guest nations.
The 12 teams in the field will be split into three groups each containing four nations, with the top team and the best-placed runner-up advancing to the semifinals.
South Africa squad:
Goalkeepers: Kaylin Swart (Menlo College, USA), Roxanne Barker (USC Ladies), Andile Dlamini (Mamelodi Sundowns)
Defenders: Lebohang Ramalepe (Ma-Indies), Nothando Vilakazi (Falcons FC), Janine van Wyk (Houston Dash, USA), Bambanani Mbane (Bloemfontein Celtic Ladies), Regina Mogolola (TUKS).
Midfielders: Kgaelebane Mohlakoana (Bloemfontein Celtic Ladies), Kholosa Biyana (Uni KZN), Refiloe Jane (Canberra United, Australia), Thato Letsoso (Uni JHB), Nompumelelo Nyandeni (JVW), Hildah Magaia (TUT-PTA), Linda Motlhalo, Thembi Kgatlana (both Houston Dash, USA).
Strikers: Jermaine Seoposenwe (UWC), Melinda Kgadiete (Bloemfontein Celtic Ladies), Chantelle Esau (Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies), Noko Matlou (Ma-Indies)