27 November 2017 – The South African U17 Women’s National Team (Bantwana) enters a very crucial week as they attempt to qualify for the 2018 FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup that will be played in Uruguay from 13 November to 1 December.

The South Africans have been in camp since Monday, 20 November and will face neighbours Botswana on Friday, 1 December 2017.

The match will take place at the Lobatse Sports Complex in Botswana.

Kickoff is at 15h00.

To prepare for the match, Bantwana played against a boys’ team from Shumba Academy on a wet Saturday (25 December) in Bedfordview.

While the squad lost the match, interim head coach Simphiwe Dludlu is not worried about the result.

“While we would have love to win the match, the result do not really bother us because we needed to get some information about our team from this match, and we got plenty of it. It was important for us to have this exercise because we have been working on a certain way of playing as a team – in defence and attack – and so far I have an idea of what we are about,” said Dludlu.

“The girls have applied what we have been teaching them throughout the week, so I am quite happy with the major things that we have been working on, obviously it’s not 100 percent but it’s work in progress. So far so good, I think we are on the right track.”

Of the 23 players in camp, only two have played for the national team – defender Kaylyn Jordaan from Cape Town, as well as midfielder Sibulele Holweni from the Eastern Cape.

And for that reason, Dludlu was quite impressed with the performance of her charges.

“What I saw in this match gives me a bit to smile about even though an international friendly is very different from a practice match against the boys or any other club – there is the psychology part of it where you are in a big proper stadium, you are singing your national anthem, you are wearing your national team kit and everything is intimidating,” added the former Banyana Banyana defender.

“In a practice match you get off the bus and play, as though you are at a training session. But I am very happy with the girls’ decision making in certain moments, in individual spaces as well as a team. I was quite impressed because some of them are giving me exactly what I need from them. Some we still need to work on, but the good thing is that I have an idea of what we have and I will not be going to the World Cup qualifier blind – not knowing how they will behave like or how they will respond during an official match. This exercise was key and opened my eyes to many things.”

Dludlu gave all the players a run in the practice match, except for Holweni, who was nursing an injury.

Despite the information she got from the match, Dludlu says she has still not come close to her starting lineup.

“In this game it is difficult to say who will be starting, especially when we are still left with about a few days of training, because some of the girls that I saw just the other day are giving me something different in a practice match. But I have an idea of the combinations l want to play – at the end of the day you need to pick the best for the job, and I am confident closer to match day I will know where we are,” concluded Dludlu.

Bantwana depart for Botswana on Wednesday, 29 November.

They are expected to return to South Africa on Saturday, 1 December.

The second leg is scheduled for Saturday, 16 December 2017 at the Dobsonville Stadium.

Kickoff is at 15h00.

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