Banyana Banyana head coach Vera Pauw has announced the names of 22 players who will represent South Africa at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games which kickoff early next month.
Pauw has kept the bulk of the team that has done duty for the Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana since the Olympic qualifiers. Only 18 + four additional players have been called for Brazil.
From the squad that travelled to the USA last week, three players have been left out – defenders Lebobang Mabatle and Lerato Kgasago as well midfielder Silindile Ngubane.
This is a further three from the squad that travelled to Holland where Bongiwe Thusi, Mapaseka Mpuru and Rhoda Mulaudzi did not make the cut.
Pauw belives admits it was not easy to name the final 22.
“It has been a long journey for the entire team, some of the players have been with us since the qualifiers for the Olympics, but unfortunately I can only take 22. We had to look at the balance of the team and I believe we have made the right choice. It was not an easy decision to make though as any of the us who are not going to Rio had as much of a chance as those who are in,” said Pauw.
“But I have confidence that the squad we have selected will represent us well in Brazil. We did well in the three games we played recently – two against The Netherlands and one against the USA – and this has given me hope that we can make our mark at the Olympics. At this stage the only thing left is for the South Africans to be behind this team as that will further boost our confidence.”
There are 18 players who are officially selected to play in the Games, with a further additional four who will be on stand-by. They will travel with the squad but are not eligible to play unless there is a serious injury among the 18.
The additional players are goalkeeper Kaylin Swart, defender Nomathemba Ntsibande, midfielder Thembi Kgatlana and striker Chantell Esau.
Pauw also has a wealth of experience in her side as ten of the players selected for 2016 Rio were part of the squad that went to the 2012 London Olympic Games – Roxanne Barker (28 caps), Nothando Vilakazi (86), Janine van Wyk (131), Noko Matlou (124), Leandra Smeda (60), Amanda Dlamini (100 – she was the captain in London), Refiloe Jane (62), Nompumelelo Nyandeni (125), Robyn Moodaly (14) and Sanah Mollo (69) – all have 924 caps between them.
The South African Football Association has wished the team well in their campaign in Brazil.
“First of all congratulations to the selected players, we know it has been a long journey and the wait is finally over as you get ready to represent South Africa in Brazil. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Sasol for all the assistance they have given this team to be where they are at the moment. Watching this team play against The Netherlands last month and just recently against the USA gave us a glimpse of what to expect in Rio. A lot of strides have been made and we are confident they will not disappoint. We can only wish them luck and hope they fly the flag high. Go out there and give your all, that is all we can ask of you,” said SAFA President Dr Danny Jordaan.
The Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana have been drawn in Group E against Sweden, China and hosts Brazil.