1 August 2017 – Interim Banyana Banyana head coach Desiree Ellis says they are impressed with what they saw at the recent national team selection training camp.

Ellis selected a squad of 34 players for a five-day camp which started on Sunday, 23 July and concluded on Friday, 28 July. The players were taken through fitness tests, and most came out tops.

The camp was part of preparation for the upcoming COSAFA Cup tournament scheduled for September this year.

SAFA.net sat down with Ellis to get her thoughts on the camp.

Matlhomola Morake:How did the camp go?

Desiree Ellis:We need to start at the beginning. Their fitness levels are much improved gathering from the fitness tests we conducted. The training programmes we gave them prior to the camp really worked, it clearly shows a lot of them did their homework, the results shot out of the roof which is clearly pleasing for us. Then we had the selection games – the pace of the games was of a high intensity, something we didn’t expect. But they are all here to compete and that is good for us going forward that we have three or four players competing in one position – as coaches that is the sort of headache we want because good competition improves everyone in the team. We didn’t go too much into detail because we had 34 players, obviously when the squad is selected for COSAFA CUP we will go into more details and work with the players to show them what it is we want. We want players to think on the field, at the end of the day, the problems that happen on the field they will have to solve themselves, sometimes we won’t be able to get word to them on time. It was very interesting to see that when one player raises a hand, the other wants to raise it higher and by doing that the competition becomes healthy and it also then improves the intestity and the level of competition in the team, I think that was fantastic.

MM:What was the focus on for this week?

DE:To test and see how their endurance has improved as the last camp ended on the 1st June. Then also to give them an opportunity to play and for us now too see the ones raising their hands. After this camp we now have to work on getting them sharper, more explosive.

MM:Working with such a big group, how challenging was it?

DE:It is very challenging but we sat down with all of them and explained to them why they were there. We also showed them and drilled into them how important it is to play for the badge because sometimes players forget why they are in the national team. Playing for the badge means representing your country, your family, your friends, and the coaches that have worked with you so we were trying to instill a lot of that. We also told them to take charge of themselves when they are not in camp because you come here to compete and to play. A lot of players have gone and done their homework and that is what has made it easier for us in working with such a large group, but the possibilities are endless. I wish people can see the smile on my face right now because of what we have seen.

MM:From the group that is here, what does the future hold for the nattional team?

DE:I think it is limitless because from what I have seen this week the players are all raising their hands and it would be interesting to play a friendly match because we have now trained with the players twice. We brought in the other Banyana Banyana players that we did not invite in the first camp – so it would be interesting to see how they can hold their own in an international match becaue that is key. When you are looking into the group of 34 and thinking how do we select the 23 that is needed for the COSAFA CUP, it is a terrible headache. You put down names on a paper and move them around and you realise how much talent there is available to us, but that is the challenge you want – if you leave someone out it is not because they are not a good player it is just that the other one is better after you have worked around scenarios, and what-ifs. That is why you would select player A ahead of player B. We interacted with their coaches when we gave the players training programmes because at the end fo the day it is not only going to benefit us but all clubs. In terms of the World Student Games it will benefit the squad that is going to Taipei because we have 12 players in camp that will be travelling next month. They are in good shape and we have told their coach that she should be proud because her players really raised their hands and when they come back we can also reap the rewards of them playing at an international tournament and take that forward into the COSAFA CUP and beyond.

MM:So the COSAFA CUP is next on your list.

DE:Yes, but it would be fantastic if we would get a friendly match before we leave for Zimbabwe, but I am aware the timeframe might be a challenge because from the 11th  the USSA squad leaves, and come back just before the end of the month – that is two weeks before the start of the COSAFA CUP, then you have to fight with the jetlag, the time difference and fatigue to try to get them back on the desired level and build it up again. That might take days and could be a bit difficult. But from what I saw in this camp, a lot of them are here to stay. It makes for good competition among the players.

MM:In the event we cant get a friendly match, how difficult will it be for Banyana Banyana to do well in the COSAFA Cup?

DE:It will be extremely difficult because you want players to gel and get the right combinations and you can only get that when you play a game. We may be able to get some game time against boys teams which will help, but ideally you want to match against other women’s national teams and only then are you able to see if they can raise their standard to internatinal level or even higher. A start for us at a tournment like that would be vitally important, but to see how the players play will be a bit difficult in that essence because they would not have had a lot fo playing time as match cohesion is key, teamwork is very important. Yes, we can do that at training, but all of that comes with international matches, and while that may not derail us, it could make us not play as fluid as we want to.