Head coach of the SASOL-sponsored Banyana Banyana, Desiree Ellis has announced a squad of 26 players to feature in two international friendly matches early in the new year against the Netherlands and Sweden in Cape Town.
Both matches will kickstart preparations for the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup tournament, which takes place from 7 June to 7 July in France.
Ellis has kept the bulk of the squad that participated in the 2018 Women's AFCON in Ghana, and saw Banyana Banyana qualify for their first ever World Cup.
Two players have been omitted, with seven brought in.
Victoria Murua, Molatelo Sebata (First Touch Academy, Limpopo), Karabo Dlamini (Mamelodi Sundowns, Gauteng), Kholosa Biyana (University of KZN, KwaZulu Natal), Kelso Peskin (Lamar University, USA), Hilda Magaia (TUT-PTA, Gauteng) and Rhoda Mulaudzi (Canberra United, Australia) have been called up.
Sebata is the only player receiving her first call up to Banyana Banyana, while Murua has been part of a training camp for the national team. Both were again spotted at the recently-ended Sasol League National Champs in Kimberly.
Magaia and Biyana missed out on the Women's AFCON as they were stand-by players.
Dlamini, who currently plays for the U17 and U20 Women's National Teams, was called up to camp when Banyana Banyana played Lesotho in the 2018 Women's AFCON qualifiers.
Peskin and Mulaudzi make a return after a long absence in the national team.
Missing out from the AFCON squad are Kgaelebane Mohlakoana and Melinda Kgadiete (both Bloemfontein Celtic Ladies).
We always look at players raising their hands and if they do then we need to see how they cope in camp and against better opposition, said Ellis.
The players know that their places in the squad are not for keeps and need to consistently keep the levels high to remain in the squad as there are players not in the team and working hard to get a look in. The whole year we have given players opportunities and we will consistently do that. We have a couple of months before the start of the World Cup and a lot can happen � loss of form, injury, or players unavailable due to other reasons � so it is important to always have enough cover for every position.
Banyana Banyana will first take on Netherlands in the historic Winnie Madikizela�Mandela Inauguration Challenge on Saturday, 19 January 2019 at the Cape Town Stadium.
Kickoff is at 15h00.
The annual football match is in honour of one of the country's most recognisable struggle icons.
A closed-door training match against Sweden will precede this clash, and will be played on Thursday, 17 January 2019.
Three days later (Tuesday, 22 January) they face Sweden at the same venue.
Kickoff is at 19h00.
This year we had fantastic preparation for the 2018 Women's AFCON and we spoke about tripling our efforts in preparing and executing our plans, and I believe this is another great start to be ready for the biggest stage in women's football, the FIFA World Cup. We now know what the draw gave us, and we are all aware that it is not going to be easy, so we have to be methodical in our preparations, said Ellis.
The Netherlands are the current European Champions and are ranked seventh in the world, while Sweden is just two places further back � we could not have asked for more appropriate preparation that this, more so because the two nations will also be at the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup and that makes for interesting two matches.
Banyana Banyana will assemble for camp on Wednesday, 9 January in Cape Town.
Meanwhile, in line with SAFA's commitment to women's football and to ensure that Banyana Banyana receive the correct preparation leading into the World Cup, the Association has also lined up another world class international opposition.
The South African's will lock horns with World Champions and currently the number one ranked team, the USA.
The fixture will be played on Sunday, 12 May 2019 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California (South of San Francisco), which is a massive American football stadium and home to the San Francisco 49ers.
The clash forms part of the USA's entire pre-FIFA Women World Cup preparations and is one of the US' three-game Send-Off Series before they leave for France.
Source: South Africa Football Association