The South African Senior Women’s National Team qualified for the Games after defeating Equatorial Guinea 1-0 in a hard-fought second leg clash that took place in October last year with a 62nd minute goal from Jermaine Seoposenwe.
SAFA Media sat down with head coach Vera Pauw to get what the team has been up to:
Matlhomola Morake: Happy New Year coach, what has the team been doing since securing qualification for the Olympics?
Vera Pauw: We have not had much rest because we want to maintain the momentum that got us qualification to Rio. Although we performed above expectation there is still a lot to be done, and a huge gap to fill for us to be ready for the competition. The best 12 teams are in the Olympics so we need to do more, that is why we had training camps in November and December to get back to match fitness; otherwise we would have to start afresh before the Olympics if we had taken a break after the Equatorial Guinea match. The Sasol league is in recess, and that would mean most of the players, especially those who did not play in the Sasol League National Championships last year, would have started from scratch. That would mean we would only get back to some good fitness levels only in April and that does not give us enough time to be ready for Rio. So it was important to make this extra step to be able to do something at the Olympics. We worked for two weeks each in November and December (with rests on weekends), we are back in camp for another two weeks this month (January) so we can be able to start with our real prepararation programme for the Games.
MM: You have some players based in the USA who are not in camp, how are you dealing with that issue?
VP: There will always be challenges when it comes to camp, but we are engaging the institutions to see how best we can get a solution. We would like for them to be here with us, failing which it would be great to have them come to some of the camps so they are on par with what we are doing. But we are confident a workable solution will be found.
MM: How crucial is this programme?
VP: It is the only way we can have the team ready for the Games. We want to go there and make a huge difference not just make up the numbers. We are unfortunate that we don’t have competitive matches unlike most u23 Men’s National Team who play week in week out. So for us, this programme is very crucial and we must make good use of it. Between now and the Olympics, we will have training matches as well as friendly matches to ensure that we prepare thoroughly for the Olympics. We are also fortunate enough however that we will have qualifying matches for the African Women’s Championships and that will help a great deal. The full preparation programme has been set out in such a way that the players not only enjoy it but also are ready when the time comes. I must also thank SAFA for allowing us to go this route as we will benefit immensely unlike leaving it until late and closer to the tournament.
MM: You say it’s a full time programme, what does that mean for the players who are working or still studying?
VP: A lot of consideration was put for such cases and we believe this is the only way we can help the team to reach it’s potential. Yes, we did well by qualifying but we are well aware there is still a lot of room for improvement. We have spoken to the players and we discussed a lot about such things and they know a lot of sacrifices will have to be made if you are in the final team. For instance, those working will take extended leave and those studying will also do the same and will have to write their exams next year. But they will still be studying so that they don’t forget anything and have to start afresh next year. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for many and they all understand that. It is just unfortunate that it would place an unnecessary pressure for them to try and juggle the two at the same time because something will certainly suffer.
MM: How many players are needed for the Games?
VP: Only 18 will be registered to play with an additional four getting accredited for the tournament but will only feature in the competition if there is an injury to any of the 18. According to the rules, the four will travel, stay and train with us during the tournament. However, at the end of this month, we will register a big number of players to be on the system for the tournament, and we can only select from that number.
MM: Do you already have the provisional final team?
VP: It is still a long way to go but in the past camps we had 35 players which we trimmed down to 29 yesterday (Wednesday, 20 January). As we edge closer to the time, we want to start focussing on the final team. For those left out it is not the end of the world. We have told them to continue training because they still have as much a chance like anyone to go to the Olympics should a need arise. The same goes for those who did not even get a chance to attend our training camps. If they raise their hands and we believe they are better than what we have, we will certainly consider them because it is not about individuals but about the national team.
MM: It must have been difficult to cut down the squad.
VP: I must admit, this is the part I hate about my job – having to leave out players out of the team because in a way you are cutting off the dreams of an individual of representing their country at a high level. It is an unfortunate process that has been to be done.
MM: Without dwelling on the individuals, it must be sad for a player like Rhoda Mulaudzi who has been part of the set-up for a long time not to make it.
VP: It is very disappointing but unfortunately she is injured, and has been for a while. She should have gone for an operation late last year, so we are still deciding if she will do one and once she has healed and she is at the level we expect her to be, she could get a recall.
MM: At what point do you hope to see that you are now ready for competition?
VP: Unfortunately, this is not like preparing for a single match, which is why it is important to go through all the steps to ensure you are moving up together as a group. Everything we have planned is done solely to get the team ready at the right time because this is a process and that is why we have started it so early so we can peak at the right time. Any friendly matches we will be playing, any travelling we will be doing, any physical tests we will be undergoing - everyting is designed to have the players ready when the time comes. We won’t be able to see the results now but there will be some indication that we are on the right track. Right now, we are still in the foundation phase and I must say so far so good.
MM: And for you personally how do you feel about this project?
VP: I am very excited and can’t even describe the feeling. We have an opportunity to make things work, an opportunity to reach our true potential and I believe we can get to where want to be, where we need to be. All it takes is hard work and dedication from all parties. We have to pull in one direction because TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER.
Banyana Banyana Squad - January 2016 Camp
1. Roxanne Barker Thor/KA Iceland
2. Andile Dlamini Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies FC Johannesburg
3. Mapaseka Mpuru HPC Pretoria
4. Mpho Teffo Kanatla Ladies Polokwane
5. Lebohang Ramalepe Maindis FC Polokwane
6. Nothando Vilakazi Palace Super Falcons FC Johannesburg
7. Janine Van Wyk JVW FC Johannesburg
8. Noko Matlou Maindis FC Polokwane
9. Lerato Kgasago Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies FC Johannesburg
10. Nomathemba Ntsibande Springs Home Sweepers Johannesburg
11. Jabulile Mazibuko TUKS Pretoria
12. Bambanani Mbane Bloemfontein Celtic Ladies Bloemfontein
13. Letago Madiba TUT Ladies Pretoria
14. Lebogang Mabatle TUKS Pretoria
15. Mamello Makhabane JVW FC Johannesburg
16. Amanda Dlamini University of Johannesburg Johannesburg
17. Silindile Ngubane Durban Ladies FC Pietermaritzburg
18. Refiloe Jane VUT Ladies Vaal
19. Leandra Smeda UWC Ladies Cape Town
20. Nompumelelo Nyandeni JVW FC Johannesburg
21. Bongiwe Thusi Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies Johannesburg
22. Linda Motlhalo HPC Pretoria
23. Stephanie Malherbe Texas A & M University USA
24. Sanah Mollo Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies FC Johannesburg
25. Shiwe Nogwanya Bloemfontein Celtic Ladies Bloemfontein
26. Thembi Kgatlana UWC Ladies Cape Town
27. Busisiwe Ndimeni Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies FC Johannesburg
28. Chantelle Essau Palace Super Falcons FC Johannesburg
29. Andisiwe Mgcoyi Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies FC Johannesburg
Players not in the 29
1. Meagan Newman Lee University USA
2. Zamandosi Cele Durban Ladies FC KZN
3. Caryn Van Reyneveldt Spurs WFC Cape Town
4. Alochia Thobokela Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies FC Johannesburg
5. Amogelang Motau HPC Pretoria
6. Rhoda Mulaudzi (injured) Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies FC Johannesburg
7. Yolula Tsawe Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies FC Johannesburg
US-based players not in camp
1. Kelso Peskin Tyler Junior College USA
2. Robyn Moodaly University of Northwestern Ohio USA
3. Jermaine Seoposenwe Samford University USA