Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis promised to hand several new faces in the national team set-up a run when they clash with Zambia in an international friendly on Saturday in Lusaka.
The game also forms part of Banyana’s preparations for the back-to-back Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (Awcon) qualifier against Algeria in the final round. And now, the goal for Ellis is to integrate more new players into the team. “We want to make sure that we give other players that did well in the league an opportunity,” she said.
Some of the new players in Ellis’s 23-woman squad, dominated by local-based players, are the University of Western Cape (UWC Ladies defender Antonia Maponya, Thalea Smidt of Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies) Wendy Shongwe of the University of Pretoria.
Smidt received her first call-up in 2015 under coach Vera Pauw, but she has yet to appear in Banyana colours.
Banyana hammered Mozambique 13-0 on aggregate in the second round of the Awcon qualifier in October. Before that, Ellis and her troops won the Buhari Cup.
“There are no friendlies. And it’s always good to play. That will allow us to test the new players that are here. You can’t go to the next level if you don’t test players. In the past, we used the Cosafa Cup, but we have this game now,” said Ellis.
“We know they are a quality team, and a lot of their players did play at the Cosafa Cup. Some of their players, like ours, because Hildah (Magaia) is still here, haven’t gone back overseas just yet. So, it won’t be an easy game at all.
“But for us, it’s not just about this game but the qualifier – that’s the most important game. But we’ve got to make sure that we get everything almost right in this game. We know when the overseas-based player arrives, the level goes up,” concluded Ellis.