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Ellis prays injured Banyana stars will be available for Nigeria showdown

'Qualifying for Paris Games is the biggest goal for us'

Sihle Ndebele Journalist
General Views during the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, Qualifier match between South Africa and Tanzania at Mbombela Stadium on February 27, 2024 in Nelspruit, South Africa.
General Views during the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, Qualifier match between South Africa and Tanzania at Mbombela Stadium on February 27, 2024 in Nelspruit, South Africa.
Image: Dirk Kotze

The long-standing multidimensional rivalry between SA and Nigeria will be reignited once again as Banyana Banyana and the Super Falcons will face off for an Olympics berth next month.

In a game where striker Jermaine Seoposenwe earned her 100th cap, Banyana beat Tanzania 1-0, thanks to Thembi Kgatlana's goal in the second half. This game, played at Mbombela Stadium, was the second leg of the Olympics qualifiers.

SA had won the away leg 3-0 last Friday, meaning the victory was 4-0 on aggregate. Nigeria beat Cameroon 1-0 on aggregate to set-up a date with Banyana in the final round of the qualifiers for the Games, to be staged in France's Paris from July 26 to August 11.

As much as she has faith in the youngsters she's recently integrated with the team, Banyana coach Desiree Ellis is keeping her fingers crossed that injured veterans in skipper Refiloe Jane, Bambanani Mbane, Bongeka Gamede and Sibulele Holweni become available for the crucial showdown against Nigeria, billed for April 1 away and April 9 at home.

"I am not afraid [to face Nigeria with the current squad without the injured stalwarts] with the players who are here, but there's more players that are coming back from injuries,'' Ellis said.

"Bongeka is still missing, Bambanani is still missing, Refiloe is still missing and Sibulele is still missing, those are big players. Refiloe was close to coming to camp and Bambanani is already training with her team, so we look forward to the game.''

Banyana failed to qualify for the previous Games, having last qualified for the 2016 edition in Rio, Brazil. Ellis has reiterated their desire to go to Paris, highlighting they'll be well-prepared to outwit the Super Falcons.

"Everyone is up for it, having missed out on the 2020 Olympics, this [qualifying for Paris Games] is the biggest goal for us this year and the Wafcon later in the year. We will be ready because we will prepare well,'' the Banyana coach noted.

Meanwhile, Seoposenwe, 30, also wishes to see Mbane and Jane back for the Nigeria games, stressing they really needed them back. The Banyana striker also thanked God and the people she's worked with at Banyana en route to becoming a centurion. 

"We embrace the pressure and we look forward to the game against Nigeria. It's not going to be easy but we will be gunning for that spot to go to the Olympics. Hopefully we have Bambanani and Fifi back... we need them,'' Seoposenwe said.

"It's been 14 years for me being part of the national team and everyone has played such a big role in my journey. I thank God for sparing me thus long in the national team."


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