Banyana look to make solid start in Cosafa Cham­pi­onship

Diamond Fields Advertiser - - SPORT - MIH­LALI BALEKA FOOT­BALL WRITER

BANYANA Banyana will be hop­ing to be­gin their Cosafa Women’s Cham­pi­onship ti­tle de­fence on a high note when they meet Mada­gas­car in the tour­na­ment opener in Port El­iz­a­beth to­day (3.30pm).

The re­gional tour­na­ment that will com­mence to­day and run un­til Septem­ber 22, will be hosted by the South Africans in Port El­iz­a­beth at Wolf­son Sta­dium and Gel­van­dale.

Banyana have won the tour­na­ment on four oc­ca­sions and last year’s tri­umph in Zim­babwe marked the coun­try’s new record as coach De­siree El­lis be­came the first sportsper­son to claim the sil­ver­ware as player and coach.

In en­sur­ing that they walked vic­to­ri­ous in front of their sup­port­ers, El­lis has as­sem­bled ar­guably the team’s best squad for the com­pe­ti­tion that in­clude US-based trio Ja­nine van Wyk, Linda Motl­halo and Thembi Kgat­lana, who’s the cur­rent Player of the Tour­na­ment.

Banyana’s true char­ac­ter will be tested as early as the group stage as their op­po­nent also in­cludes Nam­bia – who have the tal­ented Chawinga sis­ters, Tabitha and Temwa that ply their trade in China and Swe­den – and neigh­bours Botswana. Should they man­age to top the group, or make it as the best run­ners-up, that’s when they’ll re­ally have to dig deep as Cameroon and Zam­bia will be likely wait­ing for them.

Cameroon and Zam­bia are favourites to take po­si­tion one and two in group B, as they, to­gether with Banyana, will be us­ing the tour­na­ment as prepa­ra­tions for the up­com­ing Africa Women’s Cup of Na­tions, in a venue yet to be an­nounced.

The North­ern Africans, The In­domitable Lionesses and Uganda, the third and 22nd ranked na­tions in the con­ti­nent, have been in­vited to par­tic­i­pate in the tour­na­ment as in­ten­si­fiers.

The big­ger pic­ture for Banyana though, is to give a spe­cial send-off to vice-cap­tain Re­filoe Jane who led the team to vic­tory at Bar­bour­fields Sta­dium in Bu­l­awayo.

Jane re­cently con­cluded a move to Aus­tralian out­fit Can­berra United, to­gether with Rhoda Mu­laudzi.

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