Despite a time difference of 10 hours between South Africa and New Zealand, the Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana squad is settling nicely in Wellington, New Zealand ahead of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup set to take place from 20 July to 20 August, co-hosted by both Australia and New Zealand.
This is the final leg of preparations and Desiree Ellis’ charges started with a training session in the gymnasium to loosen the body before going out to the field on Sunday (9 July), where they were met by wet and cold conditions at the Ole Soccer Academy in Kenepuru, Porirua – but this did not dampen their spirits.
“I think the rain came a bit early, which is good for us to be able to train in the rain as well as in the cold. Their winter is only starting now but it’s something we expected – you know back in South Africa it was really cold at times and we needed to get used to the cold. But I think the conditions are slightly different and we are also having to manage recovery in between with the jet lag, so we can’t push as hard as we want to, but the players know they have to push and get the maximum out of them even though they’re feeling a bit fatigued, and that is something that we’re managing really well. The players are professional enough to understand the task at hand and to put in the work after not having a lot of football over the last two weeks or so, so they know what’s at stake,” Ellis told SAFA.net
“There are already discussions of putting up matches in the dining hall while we’re eating for players to have a look at and already run their mind – looking at where they can take their chances and how they need to do certain things. They want to know how they can exploit the weakness or how they need to be better in trying to stop Sweden because even though we are playing Costa Rica it’s still all about Sweden, so the preparation is all geared up for that.”
After playing international friendly matches that included the likes of Brazil, Australia, Slovenia, Uzbekistan and Serbia to get ready for the World Cup, Banyana Banyana are gearing up for their final test – against Central Americans Costa Rica, to fine-tune the squad, dot the t’s and cross the I’s ahead of their all-important first match in the tournament vs Sweden.
The clash against Costa Rica takes place at the Nga Puna Wai Sport Complex in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Saturday, 15 July 2023.
Kickoff is at 14h00 local time in New Zealand (04h00 SA Time).
“Look Costa Rica is another top team, a World Cup-bound side of course. Their preparation is similar as they will play an African country (Zambia in Group C) and I think that’s why they chose to play us – but a lot of our game will be based on what we’re going to do against Sweden. It might not be evident in the game, but we’ll be working on that during training and also a little bit on Costa Rica. We cannot just isolate Costa Rica and concentrate on Sweden on its own we’ve got to put a little effort in understanding what Costa Rica offers,” added the three-time CAF Woman Coach of the Year.
Meanwhile, forward Nthabiseng Majiya of Richmond United in the Northern Cape has been withdrawn from the Banyana Banyana squad due to injury, with Sphumelele Shamase of the University of Johannesburg (UJ Ladies) taking her place on the standby list.
Majiya was one of three stand-by players alongside Amogelang Motau and Regirl Ngobeni – both from the University of the Western Cape (UWC).
Shamase was roped in prior to the team’s departure to New Zealand – she was part of the preliminary squad of 36 players before the list was trimmed down to 23.
THE FULL BANYANA BANYANA SQUAD IN NEW ZEALAND:
Andile Dlamini (Mamelodi Sundowns FC), Kaylin Swart (JVW FC), Kebotseng Moletsane (Royal AM)
Karabo Dhlamini (Mamelodi Sundowns FC), Fikile Magama (UWC), Lebohang Ramalepe (Mamelodi Sundowns FC), Tiisetso Makhubela (Mamelodi Sundowns FC), Noko Matlou (SD Eibar), Bambanani Mbane (Mamelodi Sundowns FC), Bongeka Gamede (UWC)
Kholosa Biyana (UWC), Refiloe Jane (Sassuolo FC), Sibulele Holweni (UWC), Nomvula Kgoale (TS Galaxy), Linda Motlhalo (Glasgow City), Robyn Moodaly (JVW FC)
Gabriela Salgado (JVW FC), Jermaine Seoposenwe (CF Monterrey), Noxolo Cesane (unattached), Melinda Kgadiete (Mamelodi Sundowns FC), Wendy Shongwe (University of Pretoria), Hildah Magaia (Sejong Sportstoto), Thembi Kgatlana (Racing Louisville)
Regirl Ngobeni (UWC), Sphumelele Shamase (UJ Ladies), Amogelang Motau (UWC)
By Matlhomola Morake – Centre Circle