The omission of veteran midfielder Mpumi Nyandeni and the inclusion of 18-year-old Sibulele Holweni were the two main talking points after South Africa coach Desiree Ellis named her Women’s World Cup squad.
Banyana Banyana have been handed a tough draw for the debut at a World Cup and being their campaign in France on 8 June against Spain before facing China and finally Germany.
The 31-year-old Nyandeni, who had been part of the Banyana set up since making her debut in 2001, played at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, winning over 100 caps in the process.
“We have given players an opportunity to raise their hands and some have raised their hands more than others. Some players were identified late,” Ellis explained.
“I realise some players are going to be disappointed in not making the squad.”
Holweni, together with goalkeeper Mapaseka Mpuru and 19-year-old defender Bongeka Gumede, both uncapped, are the ones who caught Ellis’ attention during the build-up to the World Cup.
For Holweni it will be a second global tournament in the space of seven months after captaining the national team at the Under-17 World Cup in Uruguay in November.
A student at Pretoria’s High Performance Centre, she was only called up to the Banyana squad for April’s friendly against Jamaica in Durban and made her senior debut in last Sunday’s 3-0 defeat against the USA in California.
The experience will be provided by big names such as Thembi Kgatlana, the current African Women’s Player of the Year‚ veteran defenders Janine van Wyk and Noko Matlou.
Midfielders Refiloe Jane and Leandra Smeda‚ and forward Jermaine Seoposenwe will form the rest of the backbone of the selection.
“Selecting the squad was an agonizing decision, I hadn’t slept for days,” said Ellis.
“I wanted to make sure that I get the mix right. I also wanted to think of the future. Sometimes you need the energy of the young players who have no fear.
“During the training matches they showed their quality for us all to see and you have to give opportunities for players who raise their hands – I’ve said that all along and I have to be true to my word.”
The squad assembles in Johannesburg on Wednesday before their departure for France the following day.
South Africa Women’s World Cup squad:
Goalkeepers: Mapaseka Mpuru (University of Pretoria)‚ Andile Dlamini (Mamelodi Sundowns)‚ Kaylin Swart (Golden Stars)
Defenders: Lebogang Ramalepe (Ma-Indies)‚ Nothando Vilakazi (Gintra Universitetas‚ Lithuania)‚ Noko Matlou (Ma-Indies)‚ Janine van Wyk (captain‚ JVW)‚ Bambanani Mbane (Bloemfontein Celtic)‚ Tiisetso Makhubela (Mamelodi Sundowns)‚ Bongeka Gamede (UWC Ladies)
Midfielders: Refiloe Jane (Unattached)‚ Mamello Makhabane (JVW)‚ Karabo Dhlamini (Mamelodi Sundowns)‚ Busisiwe Ndimeni (TUT-PTA)‚ Leandra Smeda (Vittsjö GIK, Sweden)‚ Kholosa Biyana (University of KwaZulu-Natal)‚ Sibulele Holweni (Sophakama/HPC)‚ Linda Motlhalo (Beijing Phoenix‚ China)
Forwards: Thembi Kgatlana (Beijing Phoenix‚ China)‚ Ode Fulutudilu (Malaga‚ Spain)‚ Amanda Mthandi (University of Johannesburg)‚ Jermaine Seoposenwe (Gintra Universitetas‚ Lithuania)‚ Rhoda Mulaudzi (Unattached)