Holders South Africa have received a boost with the news that stalwart captain Janine van Wyk will be available to lead the side at the 2021 COSAFA Women’s Championship that will be played in Nelson Mandela Bay from September 28 to October 9.
Van Wyk, the most capped international in South African football, who plays for Glasgow City in Scotland, is the only overseas-based player in the squad as coach Desiree Ellis once again gets to test her pool of talent in the local game.
There are familiar faces from past triumphs in the competition, including the likes of goalkeeper Kaylin Swart, defender Bambanani Mbane, midfielders Mamello Makhabane, Gabriela Salgado and Sibulele Holweni, and experienced forward Rhoda Mulaudzi.
South Africa open their Group A campaign against Malawi on Sept. 28, before a clash with Angola three days later. They close out their pool play on Oct. 4 against Mozambique. Only the top team in each pool and the best-placed runner-up qualify for the semifinals.
The Mozambique clash will have extra significance as the two teams also meet in the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers that are scheduled for next month, providing both with the perfect opportunity to assess their respective strength.
Having said that, Banyana Banyana will have their host of overseas stars back and available for the qualifiers.
South Africa have won seven of the eight COSAFA Women’s Championships played, including the previous four, and will be hoping to continue their dominance in 2021.
The side are also still basking from the achievement of qualifying for a first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2019 as the game in the country continues to make steady strides and break new boundaries
They stormed to the inaugural 2002 regional 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 hosts Zimbabwe in the decider in 2011, leaving them with a record of 26 wins from 29 games in the COSAFA Women’s Championships at that point.
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 were 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.
A much-changed side took part in 2019 but still snatched the trophy as a tournament record 17-0 win over Comoros Islands was followed by further pool wins over Malawi (3-1) and Madagascar (3-0).
They defeated old enemy Zimbabwe 3-1 in the semifinals, before edging Zambia 1-0 in the decider.
They had a much-changed squad in 2020 but still breezed through their pool with three wins over Angola (2-0), Eswatini (5-0) and Comoros Islands (7-0), which set up a semifinal with Malawi that was won 6-2 after a goalless first half.
They took on Botswana in the final and got some revenge for having been knocked out of the 2020 Olympic Games qualifiers by The Mares as South Africa won 2-1 at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
South Africa have competed at every African Women’s Championship since 1995, but despite five runners-up finishers, have yet to claim the gold medal. In 2018 they lost the final on penalties to nemesis Nigeria.
South Africa squad:
Goalkeepers: Kaylin Swart (JVW FC), Mapaseka Mpuru (University of Pretoria)
Defenders: Karabo Makhurubetshi (Mamelodi Sundowns), Tiisetso Makhubela (Tshwane University of Technology), Bambanani Mbane (Mamelodi Sundowns), Ongeziwe Ndlangisa (Sunflower FC), Janine Van Wyk (Glasgow City, Scotland), Koketso Tlailane (Tshwane University of Technology)
Midfielders: Mamello Makhabane (JVW FC), Oratile Mokwena (Mamelodi Sundowns), Gabriela Salgado (JVW FC), Noxolo Cesane (University of the Western Cape), Robyn Moodaly (JVW FC), Sibulele Holweni (University of the Western Cape)
Forwards: Melinda Kgadiete (Mamelodi Sundowns), Ntombifikile Ndlovu (Sunflower FC), Kgaelebane Mohlakoana (Bloemfontein Celtic), Amanda Mthandi (University of Johannesburg), Rhoda Mulaudzi (Mamelodi Sundowns), Chabana Reitumetse (Bloemfontein Celtic)