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Banyana for Brazil

Our Banyana Banyana women’s football season will be looking to build on their status of probably being South Africa’s best performing national sports team of 2011, when they compete against South American opposition in Brazil, en route to the 12-nation Cyprus Women’s Cup tournament.

The 22 players of the Sasol-sponsored senior women’s national team leave for Rio de Janeiro later this week. The South Africans won 13 of their 17 fixtures last year in qualifying to join Cameroon as representatives of Africa at the London Olympics in July this year.

ÔÇ£Banyana Banyana may be ranked 66th in the world, but the playing fields are level when the whistle to signify match day kick-off is blown,ÔÇØ said national coach Joseph Mkhonza.

The coach was referring to the fact that his team will compete at the Cyprus Women’s Cup from 28 February to 6 March, having been drawn in a group along with South Korea (16th in world), New Zealand (24th in world) and Northern Ireland (64th in world).

Experienced midfielders in Russian-based Nompumelelo Nyandeni and USA-based Kylie Ann Louw will link up with their Banyana Banyana team-mates in Cyprus, which means that two of the current travelling party will return home to South Africa after the South American adventure.

In needing to register three goalkeepers for the Olympics, Mkhonza has opted to include former Durban Ladies (Sasol League KwaZulu Natal) gloves specialist Roxanne Barker, who is currently a student at Peperdine University in the USA. The third goalkeeper in the current team is North West-based Mputle Ntshatsana.

During the South American tour in particular, the coach is expected to take a closer look at the option of whether to continue with talented midfield anchor Gabisile Hlumbane in the left-back defender role.

The Kovsies FC (Sasol League Free State) player is comfortable kicking with either foot and has done duty for Banyana Banyana in both full back defensive positions as well as in midfield.

ÔÇ£One of the positive points of Banyana Banyana is that we have a few players who can play in various positions on the park,ÔÇØ said Mkhonza. Besides Hlumbane, uncapped Refiloe Jane of Mamelodi Sundowns (Sasol League Gauteng) is equally at home at right back, central defence or in midfield, while Nothando Vilakazi, who plays for Sasol League National Champions Palace Super Falcons, has been used as a left back defender or as a left-sided striker.

Janine van Wyk’s return to the national senior women’s team after two month’s on the sidelines due to personal reasons, is good news for the Banyana Banyana defence. Her centre back combination with Port Elizabeth-based Amanda Sister has been one of the success stories of Banyana Banyana teams in recent times.