Banyana begin long build-up to COSAFA Women’s Championship

Holders South Africa have begun a long build-up to the COSAFA Women’s Championship having started a camp ahead of the Buhari Cup in Nigeria that will help the team to prepare for the defence of their regional title.

Banyana Banyana are hoping to lift the COSAFA trophy for the fifth year in a row when the competition returns from Nelson Mandela Bay from September 28 to October 9, but first must head to west Africa where they will take on Cameroon and Ghana in their first round pool.

Coach Desiree Ellis is delighted to have the players in camp having barely seen them in 2021, bar a couple if friendly wins in April.

“It was good to see the players back after such a long while, you can see they have been playing, the level of fitness was reasonably what we expected. The first session was just a start-up,” Ellis says.

“We will start to concentrate a little bit more on specifics and then obviously conditioning and getting ready for travel [to Nigeria].

“I was very happy with the new players that have come in, they don’t look like they are too far behind even though some of them it is the first time at camp.”
Ellis says they are cognizant of the heavy workload coming up for the players, especially those who have been in intense action, with four members of the victorious Mamelodi Sundowns squad from the 2021 TotelEnergies CAF Women’s Champions League | COSAFA Qualifiers included.

“We are extremely happy with what we saw. We will continue from here. With re-starts, players always think they are doing nothing, but it takes into account what they have done over the last few days, especially the players coming from Mamelodi Sundowns.

“We have to manage the players in camp to make sure we keep them fresh, but also to make sure they get some work in.”

Those Sundowns players are defender Bambanani Mbane midfielder Oratile Mokwena, and forwards Lelona Daweti and Melinda Kgadiete, the latter finishing as top scorer at the regional Champions League competition.

Ellis has called on a number of overseas-based players well – defenders Lebohang Ramalepe (Dinamo Minsk) and stalwart Janine Van Wyk (Glasgow City), midfielders Refiloe Jane (AC Milan) and Linda  Motlhalo (Djurgardens), and forwards Thembi Kgatlana (Atletico Madrid) and Hildah Magaia (Moron BK).

“It’s [the Buhari Cup] like a mini AWCON itself,” Ellis says. “It is an opportunity to test ourselves after having missed a lot of football over the last 18 months both locally and internationally.

“It’s also an opportunity to have a look at some of the overseas based players that we have not seen since 2019 due to Covid-19 protocols and quarantine regulations in the countries where they are currently playing.”

The competition, as well as the COSAFA Women’s Championship, will serve as a build-up to the preliminaries for the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations finals, where Banyana start their bid to reach the continental event against Mozambique.

The teams also clash in this year’s COSAFA competition, where South Africa are in Group A along with Malawi and Angola.