Banyana Banyana coach Joseph Mkhonza has announced a squad of 22 players, including five new caps, as South Africa's women's football team gears up for the 12-Nation Cyprus Women's Cup taking place from 6 to 13 March.
The five new players to make the squad include goalkeepers, Kaylin Swart of the University of the Western Cape (UWC) Ladies club and Mahlatsi Mogola of the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) Ladies Football Club. Also cracking the nod for a first time were, TUT central midfielder Zanele Chiya, Vuyo Mkhabela of the UWC Ladies FC and Shiwe Nongwanya of Bloemfontein Celtic Ladies.
Swart, Mkhabela and Nongwanya are graduates of the South African under-20 women's national team.
Two players who missed out on the London Olympic Games and the African Women's Championship in Equatorial Guinea, Nomathemba Ntsibande and Gloria Thato, are back in the squad.
The bulk of the squad is made up of the players that took part in the London Olympics, and coach Mkhonza is hoping that the experience they gained in London will assist the team in climbing up the world rankings after this year's Cyprus Cup competition. They're currently occupy 56th place in the Fifa world rankings.
The Sasol-sponsored squad, though, will be without the services of three overseas-based players: Russia-based Nompumelelo Nyandeni, who has to honour club commitments, and Kylie-Ann Louw and Roxanne Barker, who have both been held back due to study commitments at their respective universities in the United States.
Mkhonza, however, said he was confident the squad selected has what it takes to conquer the world and said he would try some new combinations before the team departs for Cyprus on Monday. "We have included new young players coming from the Basetsana squad and I am looking forward to seeing them perform to the best of their ability in the Banyana Banyana squad," he reckoned.
UWC Ladies FC goal-minder Swart said she was excited about her first call up to the Banyana Banyana squad, saying it was always her ambition to play for the senior national team.
"A call-up to the senior women's national squad has really been a huge fillip for me. I have been working hard for this position and I am glad that the coaches saw the potential in me.
"Being one of the youngsters in the squad, I hope to gain the required experience and grow as a national team player and see myself becoming a regular player in the Banyana Banyana squad," said added.
Previously Swart was a key member of the junior women's national teams playing at under-17 and under-20 level. She represented South Africa at the Fifa under-17 Women's World Cup in the Caribbean in 2010.
'Nice to be back'
Nomathemba Ntsibane was thrilled to return to the national team after missing out on 2012's big tournaments. "It's exciting to be back in squad after a long absence," she said. "I have been working hard throughout my rehabilitation and it is nice to be back with the girls again."
South Africa will be in Group C at the Cyprus Cup, with Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and South Korea. Group A consists of England, Italy, New Zealand and Scotland, while Group B is made up of Canada, Finland, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
BANYANA BANYANA SQUAD
Andile Dlamini, Lebogang Mabatle, Nothando Vilakazi, Jermaine Seoposenwe, Janine van Wyk, Zamandosi Cele, Nomathemba Ntsibande, Silindile Ngubane, Amanda Dlamini, Mary Ntsweng, Noko Matlou, Robyn Moodaly, Gabisile Hlumbane, Refiloe Jane, Kaylin Swart, Andisiwe Mgcoyi, Nocawe Skiti, Zanele Chiya, Mahlatsi Mogola, Vuyo Mkhabela, Gloria Thato, Shiwe Nongwanya