Banyana Banyana midfielder Refiloe Jane celebrates her 23th birthday today – but she had an even greater celebration on Sunday, 2 August when she made her 50th appearance for South Africa.

Banyana Banyana midfielder Refiloe Jane celebrates her 23th birthday today – but she had an even greater celebration on Sunday, 2 August when she made her 50th appearance for South Africa.

This was when Banyana Banyana beat Kenya 1-0 at the Machakos Stadium to go through on a 2-0 aggregate to the final round of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games qualifiers.

Smeda earned her 50th cap in the first leg third round qualifier against Kenya played at the Dobsonville Stadium just over two weeks ago (Saturday, 18 July 2015). Banyana Banyana won the match 1-0.

Born on 4 August 1992, Jane’s national team journey started in 2012 in the annual Cyprus Women’s Cup.

SAFA Media spoke to the elated Banyana Banyana vice-captain shortly after their match against Kenya.

Matlhomola Morake: Congratulations on your 50th cap for South Africa, how do you feel?

Refiloe Jane: Thanks a lot, I feel very happy and honoured. I would also like to appreciate the platform I have been given to showcase my talent and represent my country. It hasn’t been easy but with the determination and hard work, it was enough to get me here.

MM: Do you still remember your first cap?

RJ: Very much so, it is as though it was yesterday. I earned my first cap in Cyprus in 2012, I remember when I came on we were leading against Northern Ireland, our coach then Joseph Mkhonza said to me this is your chance to start your national team career, run with it and see how far it takes you.

MM: Joining an illustrious group of players on 50+ caps, how does that make you feel to be among that select group of Banyana Banyana players?

RJ: As I said before, it is a great honour more so because it is not easy to reach that milestone especially at this age, but every opportunity I get I utilise it to the best of my ability so that I can get more caps. And also seeing those who were there before me, Noko, Janine, Amanda, Mpumi and others, they are a motivation to us because we have always looked up to them when we were not in the national team. Now that we are playing with them we get a lot of encouragement from them to keep pushing because they know that we are the future and we will have to carry the team once they depart the scene and for us to also do the same who will be coming after us.

MM: Have you enjoyed yourself in all those matches you have played so far?

RJ: Every time I am in camp it is a special moment for me because I get a chance to represent my country, to represent all the other women who play sport especially those who look up to us as role models. It gives us an opportunity to keep pushing ourselves and to restore hope to those who have lost it.

MM: It must also be exciting that your 50th cap milestone came on the day we defeated Kenya in Kenya to proceed to the final round of the Olympic qualifiers…

RJ: I also forgot that it was my 50th cap when we faced Kenya, but it is a good feeling that we got a win on the day and I will always appreciate and remember the day we defeated Kenya. But the most important thing for me now is that we should qualify for the Olympics.

MM: Out of the 50 matches so far, is there one that stands out for you?

RJ: I always cherish each and every game I play but one match that I will never forget was when we beat Nigeria 1-0 in the semifinals of the 2012 African Women’s Championship (AWC) in Equatorial Guinea. I want to believe that was one of the best games I have ever played in my career and I will always remember that day.

MM: You have so far scored four goals….

RJ: Yes, the first one was a header in 2012 against Botswana and I remember it very well because it was a beautiful header, and even though I don’t score many goals in my game but what I know is that all the goals I score are beautiful.

MM: Speaking of Equatorial Guinea, Banyana Banyana faces that nation in the final round of the Rio Olympic qualifiers – what are your thoughts?

RJ: That match will not be easy, in fact I think it is going to be war because the last time we played them it was the final of the AWC and they beat us convincingly (Banyana Banyana lost 4-0) but this time around we going there to win and redeem our pride. We will put everything in that match because we know how badly we want it.

MM: And how long can we expect you to keep on going?

RJ: For as long as I can, as long I have the legs and as long as I stay injury free I will always play.

MM: You were at the 2012 London Olympic Games, how does that feeling motivate you to want to go back and also how do you encourage others to get a taste of it?

RJ: Being at Olympic Games was a great achievement for myself, the team and the country and nothing can motivate a player other than that. The experienced we got there has made us work harder so we get return and relive those moments again. We have grown in our game and I believe we have what it takes to play against the best. Just last month I was in Korea for the World Student Games, which are treated as mini-Olympics – and you can see how far we have come as a nation and where we need to grow also.

MM: Any word to those who haven’t been to the Olympics to motivate them?

RJ: We need to focus on the upcoming game. As much as we want to go to the Olympics we need not forget about the hurdle in front of us, we must take one game at a time but also have that Olympic Dream in your head that you would like to see yourself there. Hopefully when we play Equatorial Guinea we will give our best so that we can realise that dream both as a team and as individuals.

She joins an illustrious list of players who have reached the milestone:

Portia Modise 124 Caps
Janine van Wyk 119
Mpumi Nyandeni 113
Noko Matlou 112
Amanda Dlamini 88
Nothando Vilakazi 77
Mamello Makhabane 63
Sanah Mollo 58
Leandra Smeda 51
Refiloe Jane 50

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