Interim coach of the Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana, Desiree Ellis, as named a squad of 21 players to play in the Cyprus Women’s Cup, on Eastern Mediterranean island of Cypress later this month.

The tournament runs from 26 February to 7 March, and 12 women’s national teams, mainly from Europe, will be participating.

The matches are played in the cities of Nicosia, Paralimni and Larnaca.

The competition has been held since 2008, and Switzerland are the current champions.

For the 2018 edition, Banyana Banyana have been drawn in Group C alongside Hungary, Slovakia as well as Trinidad and Tobago.

“This tournament also gives us another opportunity to play more teams that are higher ranked than us. It also helps us to monitor our progress as we need to improve in certain areas of our game based on the Sweden match we played not so long ago – minimizing our mistakes, work and improve our fitness level, to work as a unit and sharpen our finishing,” said Ellis.

The former Banyana Banyana captain has called up the bulk of the team that recently played against Sweden in an international friendly match in Cape Town. Missing out from that squad are Yolula Tsawe, Zanele Nhlapho, Yonela Keto, Amogelang Motau, Neliswa Luthuli, Xolisile Mnikathi and Kelso Peskin.

“We kept much the same squad we had against Sweden as the Sasol League – where most of our players ply their trade – has not started yet. The league ended in November and thanks to the personal programme we are forwarding to the players, they have come to camp looking in good shape,” added Ellis.

She has recalled goalkeeper Roxanne Barker, who replaces Tsawe, while Linda Motlhalo also returns in place of Motau.

Motlhalo was last with Banyana Banyana in the January 2016 international friendly against France in Reunion – and this will serve as a cherry on top after she signed with Houston Dash in the United States of America.

“Roxanne has been recalled as she was not available against Sweden due to work commitments. We also welcome back Linda Motlhalo – but let me first congratulate her on signing for Houston Dash. She showed what a special talent she is when we played against the USA in Chicago and also when we competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics. It is truly exciting and amazing news for Women’s football in South Africa,” said Ellis.

South Africa will be making their sixth appearance – they were there in 2009 (6th position finish), 2010 (8th), 2012 (10th), 2013 (11th) and 2015 (10th).

Banyana Banyana will face Slovakia in their opening match to be played on Wednesday, 28 February.

The 2018 Cyprus Women’s Cup group draw:
Group A: Finland, Italy, Switzerland, Wales
Group B: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Spain
Group C: Hungary, Slovakia, South Africa, Trinidad & Tobago

The South African squad
Goalkeepers: Andile Dlamini, Kaylin Swart, Roxanne Barker

Defenders: Lebogang Ramalepe, Nothando Vilakazi, Janine Van Wyk (c), Noko Matlou, Bambanani Mbane, Regina Mogolola

Midfielders: Kholosa Biyana, Kgaelebane Mohlakoana, Rachel Sebati, Thembi Kgatlana, Linda Motlhalo, Refiloe Jane, Leandra Smeda, Nompumelelo Nyandeni