29 January 2019 – Banyana Banyana defender Bambanani Mbane says they have grown in leaps and bounds as a team over the last few months.

The Bloemfontein Celtic Ladies player in the Sasol League has made 38 appearances for the South African Senior Women’s National Team, having made her debut back in April 2016 against Botswana in a Women’s AFCON qualifier.

Juice, as she is affectionately called by her teammates, has two gold medals from the 2017 and 2018 COSAFA Women’s Championship. She was part of the Banyana Banyana squad that finished second in the Women’s AFCON in Ghana last year – a result which saw them rewrite the history books by qualifying for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup scheduled for France in June.

Mbane says the recent international friendly matches against the Netherlands and Sweden in Cape Town have taught them that they must not over-respect their opponents. Banyana Banyana lost 2-1 and drew 0-0 respectively.

The defender spoke to SAFA Media about the matches and World Cup preparations:


Good game against Sweden and Netherlands

Absolutely, those were two good games that we played. I think we have put too much respect into these top teams, and it must stop. Now that we have qualified for the World Cup, we must make it a point that we should not make things easy for these teams. We need to make sure that teams show us respect, and I can tell you now that Sweden will not forget us very soon because we made life very difficult for them, and that is how it is supposed to be. They really did not expect what came their way.

What did the team learn from the matches against Netherlands and Sweden?

Like I said, the first thing is that do not over-respect teams because that’s where most of the challenges begin, if you do that you start with a defeated mind. Just remember that it is 11 v 11 and then take it from there. We now communicate a lot as a team on the field and that helps a lot, as we are able to rectify or fix problems on the spot. Also, we are now well aware of what it will take for us to get out of the group when we play in the World Cup because Netherlands and Sweden play more or less the same style as teams in the world cup – so it was a great exercise.

Any areas of concern for the team ahead of the WC?

We need to fix our finishing because we are able to create a lot of chances but lack when it comes to the crucial part of the game, which is scoring goals. If we were more composed I think we could hit many teams with high scores because we are able to bridge their defences but we never take advantage of that. In international football you get one chance in the 90 minutes and you need to use it, as it may just be the winning goal. On the other hand when the opponents get one chance they make good use of it. Also, we need to make sure we solidify our defence even more because we don’t want to concede goals – remember when you don’t concede you increase your chance of winning games. Once we sort these things out I think we will be untouchable, but we know it takes a lot of hard work and sacrifices.

It’s been a great few months for Banyana Banyana

Yes indeed, it has been. Banyana Banyana has improved in leaps and bounds, and it’s good to see we are growing every single day. Coach Desiree’s methods are clearly working and players have bought into them, and it shows with the success the team has enjoyed over the last few months. But the big test lies ahead and the next few weeks will be very crucial. We have to prepare thoroughly so that we can compete in France.

It’s just over 2 months (27 November 2018) since Banyana Banyana qualified for the WC

To be honest, it hasn’t sunk in as yet. Personally, I still can’t believe we are going to the World Cup with Banyana Banyana. Having said that, I need to work harder to make the final team because I really want to be in France, and as a team we have to make sure that we are well prepared so that we don’t add the numbers at the tournament. We need to ensure that all the teams that will face us will not forget us too quickly.

Banyana Banyana’s World Cup preparations continue next month when they take part in the annual Cyprus Women’s Cup, which runs from 27 February to 6 March 2019.