26 August 2019 – Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana are back in camp to start preparations for the crucial second round qualifiers of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics against Botswana this weekend.

The first leg will take place on Friday, 30 August 2019 in Gaborone, Botswana.

Banyana Banyana held their first training session on Tuesday (27 August) at the Wits Marks Park training grounds.

All 20 selected players are already in camp, including the overseas-based quartet of Rhoda Mulaudzi, Nothando Vilakazi, Leandra Smeda and Jermaine Seoposenwe.

“I saw a very enthusiastic and happy bunch of players on the field today, which is a clear indication of the mood in camp. The high work rate also shows that they are still hungry for more success. If you look at the current squad, 10 of them were in Rio in 2016 and they are quite excited about being back at the tournament again – but they know they have to work hard to get there,” said Ellis.

In the current squad, the ten players that went to Brazil are: Lebohang Ramalepe, Nothando Vilakazi, Noko Matlou, Mamello Makhabane, Robyn Moodaly, Jermaine Seoposenwe, Bambanani Mbane, Refiloe Jane, Andile Dlamini and Leandra Smeda.

Banyana Banyana were also at the 2012 London Olympics.

But Ellis is well aware that it has never been easy to qualify, so they have to be at their best – starting with Botswana.

“Playing Botswana has never been easy, but I thought on many occasions we made it difficult for ourselves. They (Botswana) are taking this match very seriously hence their non-appearance at the recent COSAFA Women’s Championship in Port Elizabeth, so we have to be on top of our game. We have to ensure we emerge victorious in the away match so as to make the home leg easier,” added Ellis.

“The last time we faced them was at the 2018 COSAFA Cup and in that game we had numerous opportunities to seal the game, but we did not, and we could only manage to score right at the end with a Jermaine header and won 1-0. I watched them play Namibia in May this year, and I think they will be very similar, but we have to be ready for any eventuality. They still have the same coach and the majority of players are still in the squad, so we have to make sure we do our things properly – that is going to be key for us.”

Banyana Banyana depart for Botswana tomorrow (Wednesday, 28 August) to continue with their preparations.

They return to South Africa on Saturday, 31 August.

The return fixture is scheduled for Tuesday, 3 September 2019 at the Dobsonville Stadium.

Kickoff is at 15h00 and entry is free.

The overall winner of this fixture will face either Zambia or Zimbabwe in the third round.