22 October 2019 – Captain Janine van Wyk says the international friendly match against Japan next month will be a big test for Banyana Banyana.

The two nations clash on Sunday, 10 November 2019 at the Kitakyushi Stadium in Fukuoka, Japan.

This will be South Africa’s first match since they were knocked out of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualifiers by Botswana early last month (3 September).

Van Wyk is currently at her new home in Denmark where she has joined Fortuna Hjorring that plays in the Elitedivisionen – the highest-level league competition for women’s football clubs in Danish football.

She says she is nearing the end of her recovery from the knee injury she sustained while playing for the national team in COSAFA Women’s Championship in Port Elizabeth in August.

Van Wyk spoke to SAFA Media from Denmark, and here is what she had to say:

You have been gone for a couple of weeks now, how have things been going that side?

After a couple of weeks I think I have settled in very well this side, although things can get lonely at times. It is a very small town where I am, so there’s really not much to see but training wise and being in this kind of environment I think I have done well to adapt as quickly as I can. Now that I have settled in and know my way around the places where I am, it has become a lot easier.

How far are you with your recovery – how soon will you start playing?

As far as my recovery is going, I have been doing very well but it’s kind of frustrating at the moment because I am able to do 90 percent of everything that requires football actions: changing direction, lateral movements, jumping, sprinting and the one thing that is taking a bit of time is my long range kicking, which is putting me behind a little bit and stopping me from playing a full game and getting into full contact. Other than that I am in the gym three times a week, working on my strength, building the muscles around the ligament that was injured, but still training with the team – although I am not in full contact yet, I am still completing full sessions with my team, which I am really happy about. It is just now getting to that point where I am able to kick long range balls without feeling anything at all and then of course building the muscles around that ligament to keep muscles strong when I do go into tackles and full contact with the team and then hopefully by then I can get some game time in the next week or two, it is just a matter of time of how quick everything heals around the ligaments.

Have you adjusted to life in the cold Denmark?

I don’t think any South African can adapt to any cold here in Denmark – it is absolutely freezing out here! And whenever I try to be strong mentally somebody tells me that it is going to get worse. Currently it is sitting between 10 and 13 degrees on a daily basis, sometimes with a lot of rain but they have told me that in January and February it will the coldest months with some snow and will be colder than it is now, so I am still trying to prepare my mind for that but I don’t think I can adapt to the cold weather. All I can do is to take it each day as it comes and just try and deal with it in the best way possible.

What do you do in your spare time?

Really there is not much to do here. Here and there we have coaching clinics with the young ones, but I haven’t attended any because it is difficult to communicate with the young ones as they don’t speak English that well but what I do is just watch Netflix and read some books and go for coffee with some of my teammates here and there – but there is really not much to do because of the small town I am in.

As probably the only South African woman player in Denmark, how does that make you feel?

I don’t really see it that way, it is tough and I know there are a lot of players that came to Europe to play and I am pretty sure the conditions were pretty much the same for them but I am just out here doing what I love to do, playing football on a daily basis just like any other professional would do. It feels good to out here experiencing foreign football – the setup in the league is also different as well, so I am making the most of it.

And have you made friends there?

Yes, I have hey. The team I am currently with has very friendly people. On the field they mean business, but off it they are quite friendly and approachable. There are many young players in the squad – in fact I am the oldest in the team, the closest is only 28 and youngest is 16. The average age of this team is about 22/23 years. I have made friends with some of the older players that I can connect with, and we talk a lot about football whereas the youngsters are still in their shell, still trying to be in their comfort zone and they don’t really say much but they do give me a smile here and there, and try to be myself and encourage everyone else around me, so slowly they are opening up to me and it feels great to have made some of the friends.

Congratulations on your club (JVW) winning the Sasol League, how do you feel and what does it mean for the team? What next?

It’s absolute fantastic, there was no doubt in my mind that we wouldn’t win the league this season because the likes of Mamelodi Sundowns and TUT are not there, and our toughest opposition is Croesus and TUKS, and they have done extremely well in the league. But there was no doubt that we will win because we have quality players and we are a team up there. Now we need to focus on winning the National Playoffs for us to get into the SAFA National Women’s League, which is exciting. But we need to concentrate on the task at hand, which is doing well at the national play-offs, and again that is something I expect the players to do with the quality that we have within the team. I am very excited and hopefully we will get to the national league so that people can see what this team is really about.

Banyana Banyana is facing Japan next month, your thoughts on the fixture?

It is fantastic that we are getting international friendly matches against quality opponents like Japan, and I think it is going to be a very tough encounter. They recently played Canada and beat them 4-0, so it is a huge task ahead of us. We haven’t been in camp for a while so that is a challenge in itself but everyone is going to be excited to come together and play some games. After the loss against Botswana players will want to prove a point that it was a fluke and that if you don’t take your chances you will lose games. Hopefully against a strong opponent like Japan we will come up against a good result to give us that confidence boost once again within ourselves as the national team and know that we are still a quality team that will put up a fight against any major team that we face.

You (as well as Robyn Moodaly, Nothando Vilakazi, Leandra Smeda, Noko Matlou and Refiloe Jane) played against Japan in London in 2012 in the Olympic Games in a goalless draw. How much have both sides (Banyana Banyana and Japan) changed since then?

Women’s football has grown so much since then, I think both teams have changed a lot, however I think Japan is a very well disciplined, organised team that would probably keep their style because of the strength that they have and produce within their players and their setup. I think with Banyana Banyana the team has changed a lot, new coaches have come in and we have experienced a lot going into the Olympic Games in 2016, qualifying for the World Cup in France – so we have a lot experience compared to 2012, which is a plus for us. But what sets us back is that we haven’t played in a while since our game against Botswana, and since the World Cup we haven’t played a top end team, and Japan will really be a test for us because they are really a good team that will make sure that no one beats them at home, and that is how they are if you have seen the results again a top team like Canada. We need to be really cautious in what we do and how we approach the game but I think it will be a good test for both sides to see where we are and where they are at.


MATCH:                                   Japan vs. South Africa

DATE:                                      Sunday, 10 November 2019

VENUE:                                   Kitakyushu Stadium

Fukuoka, Japan

TITLE:                                       International Friendly Match

KICK-OFF TIME:                       15h00 local time

(08h00 South African time – Japan is seven hours ahead)