South Africa promote Under-17 stars for COSAFA Under-20 Championship

South Africa have named their squad for the 2019 COSAFA Women’s Under-20 Championship, which includes 12 players that appeared at last year’s FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay.

The team will also be led by the coach of that side, Simphiwe Dludlu, in what is a clear indication of a desire to bring through a fresh group of players in this age-group.

Dludlu replaces regular Under-20 coach Sheryl Botes to ensure some continuity and will be hopeful that her side can go all the way in the inaugural COSAFA competition in this age-group that will be staged in Nelson Mandela Bay from August 1-11.

Players not selected, such as Sibulele Holweni and Karabo Dhlamini, are most likely to be picked for the Banyana Banyana squad that will contest the 2019 COSAFA Women’s Championship at the same time.

Hugely-promising 16-year-old midfielder Jessica Wade has been selected, along with three goalkeepers – Kay-Dee Windvogel, Leigh Brophy and Sphesihle Dlamini.

The striking duties will be handled by Kirsten Nolan, Refilwe Maseko and Shakira Jacobs, while the Shamase twins, Spumelele and Thubelihle, take their place in midfield.

South Africa have a tough opener against Zimbabwe on August 1, before they tackle Namibia two days’ later. They finish their pool play against Mozambique on August 5.

The top two teams in each pool advance to the semifinals.

South Africa have been a power in the region at this level in recent years and will be among the heavy favourites to lift the title on home soil.

They have won the last three AUSC Region 5 Games women’s Under-20 tournaments, a yard-stick for how they might perform in Nelson Mandela Bay, where they will also no doubt enjoy considerable support.

They claimed the round-robin competition in 2014 with three wins against Botswana (3-1), Zimbabwe (5-0) and Namibia (6-1).

Two years later they repeated the feat, beating Namibia in the final as current Banyana Banyana stars such as Linda Motlhalo shone.

At the last finals in 2018, the side were victorious again, this time beating hosts Botswana 1-0 in the decider.

South Africa have entered every qualification campaign for the African Under-20 Cup of Nations for Women, but failed at the final hurdle on five occasions, never making it through to the FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup.

A combination of Nigeria, DR Congo and Ghana have denied them a place at the global finals down the years.

South Africa squad:

Goalkeepers: Kay-Dee Windvogel, Leigh Brophy, Sphesihle Dlamini

Defenders: Lonathemba Mhlongo, Lebogang Ntabeni, Tyler-Bree Joss, Fikile Magama, Sarah Walker, Ayanda Ncube

Midfielders: Oratile Mokwena, Zethembiso Vilakazi, Miche Minnies, Spumelele Shamase, Thubelihle Shamase, Ember Edwards, Serenity Warner, Jessica Wade

Strikers: Kirsten Nolan, Refilwe Maseko, Shakira Jacobs