By Gareth Duncan┬áin Lusaka, Zambia
South Africa’s U20 soccer ladies will play in the feature match on the opening day of the Zone VI Games.
The Basetsana (which is the Suthu word for ‘Young Ladies’) will compete against hosts Zambia, Namibia and Zimbabwe for a chance to win a gold medal.
South Africa will face Zambia in a tough encounter on Friday (which will follow the opening ceremony), before facing Namibia on Sunday and Zimbabwe on Tuesday. The semi-finals will be played on 13 December, with the best two teams facing off in the final on 16 December.
The Basetsana have suffered several setbacks ahead of the competition. They haven’t played any competitive internationals since April (when they lost to Ghana in the women’s U20 World Cup qualifiers) and have only spent three days together as a squad before the Zone VI Games. They also lost key striker Alice Khosa to a knee injury a day before the team’s departure to Lusaka.
But head coach Sheryl Botes is looking towards the positives as she believes finishing first is a realistic goal.
‘We have the players and talent to win gold. We just need to put the necessary plans in place to ensure we end up on top,’ Botes told RoadtoRio.co.za. ‘The lack of preparation time is a problem and losing Alice was a big blow, but we have the ability to overcome that.
‘The players need to give their best on the field and I also have to manage them carefully. There’s only one day of rest in between matches.’
The Basetsana boast three players with senior international experience. Midfielder Robyn Moodaly featured for Banyana Banyana at the Olympic Games earlier this year. Botes said these players will need to step up.
‘That experience will be vital and players like Robyn can inspire the girls around her. Wins against Zambia and Zimbabwe, who also have plenty of players who have played for their senior teams, will be vital if we want to gain confidence and win gold.’