28 February 2018 – Head coach of the Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana, Desiree Ellis, begins her tenure as the permanent head coach with a tricky encounter against Slovakia.

Ranked 47th in the world, the Europeans are making their debut in the Cyprus Women’s Cup that kicks off today and ends on Wednesday, 7 March.

Hungary and Korea DPR make up the other sides in Group C – this is South Africa’s sixth appearance. Ellis was appointed permanently to the position last week (Thursday, 22 February 2018).

She has been leading the South African Senior Women’s National Team on an interim basis since 2016 – after the Rio Olympic Games, when she took over from former head coach Vera Pauw.

“It would be wrong of me to say that all the other matches I was in charge in, prior to this one, are not special, but this is more special. I am looking forward to this clash against Slovakia, and I am excited. I also feel confident that we will do well. There won’t be many changes in terms of our style but we need improvement from our game against Sweden, where I believe we played some good football despite the loss. As I have said before, when I was doing the work on an interim basis I gave it my all, and this won’t be any different,” said Ellis.

“No coach walks into a match not wanting to win, positive results breed confidence. But this game or tournament is not about an individual, but about the team. We must always remember to put the team first, and that is what we keep telling the players – play for the badge on the front and no one will forget the name on the back of the shirt,” said Ellis.

Since October 2016, the former Banyana Banyana captain led the squad in 15 matches,

She won eight matches, drew two and lost five, and during that period, South Africa hit the back of the net 27 times and let in 15.

For the Cyprus Cup, the head coaches of the U17 and U20 Men’s National Teams, Molefi Ntseki and Thabo Senong, respectively, will assist Ellis.

Both are here as technical advisors.

“It has been amazing working with them. They possess a wealth of experience as both have led their respective teams to the World Cup (Ntseki, Chile 2015 and Senong, Korea 2017). I have worked with Molefi before – both men are very knowledgeable and this benefits the squad a lot,” said Ellis.

“I believe we have a very good set-up here. We are very close, we support each other and also compliment one another very well because we all understand South African football, and that helps a lot. With this combination I think the opportunities and chances of doing well here are limitless. Another exciting aspect is that players are warming up to them, and everybody understands the mission that brought us here, so I am confident we will have an exciting tournament.”

Kickoff against Slovakia is 13h00.