13 September 2017 – Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana open their 2017 COSAFA Women’s Championship with a clash against Lesotho on Thursday, 14 September at Luveve Stadium in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

Kickoff is at 16h30.

The tournament runs from Wednesday, 13 September until Sunday, 24 September.

The South Africans will be led captain Refiloe Jane, who is no stranger to this position as she is the vice captain to Janine van Wyk who was unable to honour the national team call-up due to this tournament not falling under the FIFA Calendar date.

Jane has never captained Banyana Banyana before, but is not fazed by the task she has been given – she has recently returned from the World Student Games in Taipei where she wore the captain’s armband, for the second time in a row.

The TUT-PTA player also led the student team in 2015.

With 74 caps to her name, Jane comes with a wealth of experience.

She has been to three World Student Games tournaments – 2013, 2015 and 2017. She was also part of the Banyana Banyana squad that was at the Olympic Games in 2012 and 2016 in London and Brazil respectively.

The midfielder also played in the 2012, 2014 and 2016 CAF African Women’s Cup of Nations tournaments.

SAFA Media sat down with her in Bulawayo to get her thoughts on the task ahead.

Matlhomola Morake:     How have things been going?

Refiloe Jane:                         Things have been going very well here in Zimbabwe since we arrived on Monday (11 September). Everything is on track, everyone is happy and we are looking forward to making a good start in the tournament.

MM:                                           Before you arrived in Bulawayo the team had already been in camp, how did the preparations go?

RJ:                                                The preparations back home also went very well, and I believe we are on track. We know that we are all fighting for places in the team, no position is guaranteed. The good thing is that we are all fighting for a common goal as a team, and everything is for the benefit of the team.

MM:                                           What are your thoughts as we are about to face Lesotho?

RJ:                                                Right now we are focusing on ourselves, trying to combine as a team because we have a completely new team, so we are working hard to ensure we gel before the first match and make sure that when we play our first game we are sharp. We are not so much worried about Lesotho but we are focusing on ourselves.

MM:                                           And how important is the opening game in a tournament?

RJ:                                                The opening game of the tournament is key because you know that once you win that game, you have an upper hand among the other teams, so we want to win the first game so as to release the pressure from ourselves and then we don’t have to worry as to what will happen with the other teams.

MM:                                           And what do you make of the teams in our group?

RJ:                                                People will say it is an easy group, but we are not taking things lightly because when teams come to the tournament, they come to win and we haven’t played any of those teams in a while. We are not expecting an easy encounter from all the teams, so we are taking each game as it comes and make sure we perform at our best.

MM:                                           You have been appointed captain of Banyana Banyana for the tournament, how do you feel.

RJ:                                                It is such an honour and a privilege for me because we know it is not an easy task to be given the armband, but I believe with the team that we have right now it is going to be much easier because we are working as a team and everything is for the benefit of the team, and I have a good team behind my back.

MM:                                           It is the first COSAFA Cup tournament for you, but you are an experienced campaigner with two Olympic Games appearances as well as three World Student Games tournament under your belt.

RJ:                                                Personally, I feel God has a way of working things out. It’s a journey that I have travelled and there is still more to come. The day I allowed God to take the lead, it has been smooth sailing, and I believe this is just the beginning.

MM:                                           What are your hopes and dreams for the tournament?

RJ:                                                It is nothing but to lift the trophy because we know that most of the players in the current squad have never been to an international tournament before, and some of those that have been there, have never played in the COSAFA CUP tournament so we want to make history for ourselves and take back a medal home – we haven’t won a medal in a very long time, so we want to make a new start for ourselves.

MM:                                           You are the vice captain of Banyana Banyana, will making the step up not affect your game? How difficult will it be?

RJ:                                                Since Janine is not around, I am taking the leadership role and I won’t say it is not going to be easy but it will take more out of me as the players will be looking up to me, and whatever happens, they will have to draw strength from me. The truth is, I have been in this situation before, so it is nothing new and I am looking forward to the challenge.

MM:                                           There are a couple of new players in the squad and some with a lot of experience, how is the mix working?
RJ:                                                When we started our training camp, we realised that we have a lot of new players in our team and the senior players had to come together to make sure we bring everyone in one group and not form small groups. We had to be a unit, be one team and achieve the same goal. We picked up that no one is guaranteed a place in the team, so the more we work together to create memories and perform better for our country, the better it will be for everyone.

MM:                                           You attended an event where our sponsor Sasol was renewing their relationship with SAFA, in particular with Banyana Banyana, what does that mean to you as a player?

RJ:                                                The renewal of the relationship has given us hope again because you know that at times when you play in a league where you have nothing to show for yourself, you tend to give up. But with Sasol coming back saying we still believe in Banyana Banyana, we still believe in the players of South Africa, it shows that they really care about us – and that alone has given us hope that there are still people out there who care for us players – now it’s our turn to give back to Sasol to say thank you and we will bring back positive results.

MM:                                           Are we seeing Refiloe Jane in Tokyo in 2020 for the Olympic Games?

RJ:                                                My long-term goal is to make sure I play in the World Cup in 2019, in the next Olympics Games and the next World Student Games – I want to play in all the major tournaments that football has to offer.