“It takes a lot of character and will-power to reach such a milestone’’
Despite thrashing Malawi by 6-0 in the last round robin match of the Cosafa Women’s Championships group stages and qualifying for the semi-finals, Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis is adamant that there’s still room for improvement for her team.
Banyana ensured that they kept their regional title defence chances alive as they triumphed in all their group stages match against Madagascar (2-1), Botswana (1-0) and Malawi (6-0) respectively.
“We didn’t start the tournament well in terms of the way that we wanted to play,” Ellis said. “But we always knew that we had a performance like this (that they displayed against Malawi), hence we kept working in training. I am very happy with how we played but I always think that there’s always a room for improvement. And we have to give it to the crowd, they’ve been fantastic so far.’’
After assembling her best squad for the on-going tournament in Port Elizabeth, Ellis has given a chance to almost all her players thus far. As a result, she’s played all three goalkeepers Roxanne Barker, Andile Dlamini and Kaylin Swart in the past three matches.
However, it was the participation of US-based trio Janine van Wyk, Linda Motlhalo and Thembi Kgatlana that stole the spotlight in KwaZakhele at Wolfson Stadium on Monday.
In that encounter, 20-year-old Motlhalo (pictured) bagged her first hat-trick in Banyana colours.
“When you come to a tournament with a squad, and don’t play everyone, that doesn’t make sense,” Ellis said. “We want that we play everyone so that we can also see if the players can go one level up. It’s important to give players an opportunity because you never know what can happen in the tournament where you can need each and every player, as that even makes our pool even bigger.”
The Malawian encounter marked van Wyk’s historical record as she become the first national team player, both female and male, to reached the 150th cap.
Van Wyk has fixtured for the national team since 2005 against Nigeria in Africa Women’s Cup of Nations tournament, and she led the national team during the Olympic games in 2012 and 2016 respectively. Her Banyana coach, Ellis, describes the 31-year-old defender as the ideal leader.
“It takes a lot of character and will-power to reach such a milestone,’’ Ellis said. “She’s been a model professional in always leading from the front; hence, I think it’s well-deserved.
“Congratulations to Janine (van Wyk) for always being there, she’s been at training even though we didn’t have one. She gets herself there, and she’s been a great motivation to others.’’
Banyana’s next assignment will be in the last four against invited participants Uganda, who are ranked 22nd in Caf.