Desiree Ellis embraces Banyana renewal ahead of Africa Women's Cup of Nations qualifier with Lesotho
Posted: 5 June 2018 Time: 08:40
National women's team coach Desiree Ellis is drawing the positives of being without a number of overseas-based stars for a second-round Africa Women's Cup of Nations qualifier with Lesotho.
Banyana Banyana will contest the first leg with their neighbours on Wednesday at the Setsoto Stadium in Maseru. Kick-off is at 15h00.
Ellis has kept the bulk of the squad that played in the Cyprus Cup in March.
She has included three new faces in the squad – Karabo Dhlamini (Women’s U-17) and Khanya Xesi (Women’s U-20 squad), as well as Hilda Magaia, who has starred for TUT this season.
The former Banyana captain has also recalled three uncapped players – Mapaseka Mpuru, who was with Banyana during preparations for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games; Thato Letsoso, who was in the squad for the Burkina Faso clash, and Gabriela Salgado, who was at the selection camp for the 2017 COSAFA Cup.
Also making a return after a long absence due to injury is midfielder Mamello Makhabane. She was injured during the 2016 Sasol League National Championship, and has only recently returned to the game.
Goalkeeper Yolula Tsawe is also back – she was last in the squad for the friendly international against Sweden in January this year.
After her good performances in the Cyprus Cup, Noko Matlou has been included as a striker – a position she now regularly plays for her club.
None of the overseas-based players such as Houston Dash trio Thembi Kgatlana, Janine van Wyk and Linda Motlhalo were called up.
Ellis said: "We brought in some new players, a lot of the overseas-based players are not available. We know that Houston Dash played yesterday; Thembi, Janine and Linda all played. It gives us an opportunity to broaden that pool, which is also great for us, bringing in younger players, also giving them an opportunity and sort of refreshing the squad. And making players realise the team belongs to everyone and if players raise their hand we are giving them an opportunity and that is what it's about.
"We have the youngest player here, Karabo [Dhlamini], 16 years old, from the U-17 national team and she doesn't look out of place. And we brought in Jessica [Williams] in place of Mapaseka [Mpuru], who couldn't make it because of exams, also from the U-20s. Coming up from the U-20s, Gabby [Salgado]. We brought back Thato [Letsoso] who has also been part of the setup before. Noko has changed positions as a striker.
"So it's nice to see the freshening of the squad and the competition. But sometimes you have to calm them down because of the intensity, because of the competitiveness. Anyone knows on any given occasion anyone can play. That is what we did in the COSAFA Cup. We did the same in Cyprus because we are trying to build a squad where we don't have to rely on one individual, but we can rely on each other. So if someone doesn't play, someone else steps in. It was proven at COSAFA and proven at the Cyprus Cup. And the camaraderie and the competitiveness is healthy. The togetherness is still there and I think it will hold us in good stead."