6 September 2018 – Lebohang Ramalepe’s face beams with a wide smile when she reminisces about her first penalty goal for Banyana Banyana in last year’s COSAFA Women’s Championship semi-final clash against Zambia in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

In that epic penultimate game, South Africa had produced an impressive comeback in the last 18 minutes of the match to hold ‘She-polopolo’ of Zambia to an amazing, come-from-behind 3-3 draw.

Banyana coach Desiree Ellis selected the first four players who were going to take the pressure-cooker spot kicks. However, for the crucial fifth one, the coach instead asked if any player was keen on taking the penalty kick and up stepped Ramalepe.

“I remember that moment very well,” Ramalepe recalls. “Coach Desiree asked who was keen on taking the last kick of the penalty shoot-outs and everybody just went dead quiet for a good five seconds.

“I do not know what got to me. I just remember lifting up my hand to volunteer to take it. I do not know where that confidence came from. Never in my life had I scored a penalty in Banyana colours. That was my first and only goal. And that is why I went on my knees on the spot when I scored it. I could not celebrate. I just froze there (in disbelief)”.

That penalty goal by Ramalepe saw Banyana progressing to the final, where they went on to beat hosts Zimbabwe 2-1 in the final day of the tournament at Barbourfields Stadium.

The Banyana right-back concedes that winning last year’s COSAFA tournament was one of her proudest moments in her career since she started playing for Banyana.

Ramalepe said as for this year’s addition, they really need to work hard if they are to stand a chance of going all the way to defend their title.

“It feels good to be going into this year’s tournament as defending champions,” Ramalepe says. “It comes with a whole lot of responsibility though. We know for a fact that as defending champions, opposing sides are going to come hard at us to deny victory.

“But we are well prepared and motivated. We are doing this for our families, the country and the badge,” she concluded.