Banyana Banyana have completed preparations for their first leg Olympic qualifier against Gabon which will be played on Saturday.

Banyana Banyana have completed preparations for their first leg Olympic qualifier against Gabon which will be played on Saturday, 23 May at Stade Augustin Monedan in the capital Libreville.

Kick-off is scheduled for 15h30 (16h30 South African time).

South Africa takes on a team that, according to the FIFA/Coca Cola Women’s World Rankings, does not qualify to be ranked as they have been inactive for more than 18 months.

Gabon last played in March of 2010 losing 1-2 and 3-1 to Cote d’Ivoire.

As expected, information on the squad has been very scarce but the Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana are not taking any chances.

Matlhomola Morake: Coach how have preparations been going?

Vera Pauw: We have been busy trying to find a new balance now with Portia Modise gone and that takes a bit of time, but we have found the best option for now. We will see during the match how it looks like because at training it all looked good.

MM: Football is a funny game, what if that plan doesn’t work?

VP: We have several plans in case the one we use against Gabon doesn’t work, we also have Plan B and C, but it is also related to the response we get from the opponents. Of course Portia was very dominant, so we need to work on another strategy.

MM: There is also the issue of regular goalkeeper Roxanne Barker not available this time around…

VP: Yes, it is unfortunate that Roxanne is not here, she is one of the key players but her club didn’t release her. I don’t know why but CAF needs to change that these qualifiers are put on FIFA match calendar because it is causing problems for countries who have players abroad. We will see if that situation changes later but for now it is awkward because Roxanne should have been part of the squad.

MM: Even after a few days in Gabon, still no info on the opponents?

VP: As I have been saying, it is much like the match in the Comoros Island where we beat them 13-0. Again I will start with the strongest team and see how things go but a good start is very important. We are looking forward to a very good game but we are confident.

MM: It is the rainy season in Gabon, does that bother you knowing that most of your matches are not played in wet conditions?

VP: No, I am not worried about the falling rains at all, because with the assistance of our techical sponsor Nike we brought along the right boots for the weather and pitch conditions. All players have boots related to soft pitches and that is very important because we saw in Cyprus in our last match against Finland if you don’t have the right boots you lose games. We were slipping all over in that match because it was wet and it cost us two goals, it cost us the game and we lost 2-1. And that will not happen again. I have been saying that at the top level you need several boots for different surfaces and it has shown once again.

Meanwhile, the match officials for the game are from DR Congo.

Referee: Julie Kyabuta Kanyembo

Ass. Ref 1: Sacle Marthe Sakobo

Ass. Ref 2: Veronique Ika Ngomba

4th Official: Noella Dikoko Manzalo (Central Africa)