Author: Mpumi ManyisiThe Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies well-oiled juggernaut continues to steamroll past opponents in the domestic league. The team has a lot at stake, with their sights set on retaining the Hollywoodbets Super League and reclaiming glory on the continent. On a personal level, several players will be looking to earn a ticket to the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023, which takes place in Australia and New Zealand in July and August. Banyana are in Group G with Spain, Italy, and Argentina, and Dlamini hopes to feature in the opening game against Spain on 23 July in Wellington, New Zealand. Mpumi Manyisi runs the rule over eight players who look likely to make the grade for Desiree Ellis’ squad.
© Sydney Mahlangu - BackpagePixIn 2020, ‘Sticks’ clocked an impressive 50 caps and has continued as the country’s number-one goalkeeper. The acrobatic shot-stopper is credited for her ability to read the game well and has grown into a very dependable squad member. Her most significant achievements thus far have been winning the CAF Champions League and the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON). Without a doubt, she would be one of the first names on Ellis’ list, having been voted Goalkeeper of the Tournament at the 2022 WAFCON. She guarded the goals for all six matches as Banyana Banyana claimed their maiden continental title following a 2-1 victory over hosts Morocco. The 30-year-old kept three clean sheets while conceding just three goals.

Her previous experience in the 2019 edition of the FIFA World Cup hosted by France should count “I want to make sure that I seal the World Cup spot, there are so many goalkeepers doing well in the country, and I want to perform to the best of my abilities and make the final team. My dream is to become the best goalkeeper in the world, and that is my biggest wish as a footballer,” Dlamini said.
© Sydney Mahlangu - BackpagePixThe national team selectors will undoubtedly look to have a forward with her qualities. The former Celtic Ladies star is blessed with close ball control, speed, dribbling, crossing and the ability to use both feet. She has previously proven effective off the bench as an impact player with a rocket shot that can beat any goalkeeper. Kgadiete has proven, at an international level, that she has what it takes to lead Banyana from the front. In the COSAFA CAF Women’s Champions League qualifiers, she received an accolade for the first hat-trick scored against Botswana’s Double Action.

Subsequently, the 30-year-old forward won the Golden boot award after scoring five goals. The Mdantsane-born Eastern Cape star, whose father Ezekiel was also a professional footballer for Moroka Swallows in the early 90s, scored Sundowns' first goal in the 2021 Champions League final tournament they eventually won in Egypt. She would be eager to participate in the national team’s FIFA World Cup campaign.
© Sydney Mahlangu - BackpagePixCapped over 60 times, her importance in the Banyana set-up cannot be overemphasised. Besides the accolades she has won with Sundowns and Banyana, she was crowned Hollywoodbets Super League Player of the Season in 2021. At the time, ‘Juice’, as she is affectionately known, said that she would want to win the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations, the CAF Champions League, and qualify for the FIFA World Cup knockout stages before thinking about hanging up her boots. Two of those have been achieved with such aplomb, and New Zealand/Australia presents an opportunity to push for the third.

The 33-year-old played a pivotal role alongside Noko Matlou at the WAFCON in Morocco, shutting out many strikers during the tournament. Mbane is adept at reading the game and exceptional positioning. She is also quick across the ground and strong in the tackle. A lot will be expected from her when Banyana goes to the FIFA World Cup.
© Sydney Mahlangu - BackpagePixThe 24-year-old central defensive midfielder remains an integral part of the national team, having played alongside Refiloe Jane on many occasions. The Cape Town-born star has risen through the ranks, representing South Africa at the Under 20 level and at the World Student games on three occasions. Many will remember her performance in the African Women’s Champions League final, shutting down the tournament’s top goalscorer Evelyn Badu.

She forced her way into the Banyana reckoning on the back of her exploits at the COSAFA and CAF Champions League, where she was exceptional. In those two tournaments, she displayed her ability to win the ball and get her side on the front foot quickly.

Ellis would undoubtedly want her incredible range of passing, excellent ball control, and ability to read the game well. Alongside Jane in the Banyana engine room, Smidt often anticipates danger and protects the back four well.

She never stops working and is one of those players who seems to pop up everywhere on the pitch. With age still on her side, she is undoubtedly a player Ellis would want around the team.
© Sydney Mahlangu - BackpagePixBefore switching to Sundowns, Dhlamini had stints with the Oakland University and Golden Grizzlies in the United States of America. She is a highly versatile player for Coach Jerry ‘Kappa’ Tshabalala and can be deployed anywhere down the spine. A player of her calibre would be important for Ellis for several reasons. When the need arises, she can slot in as a centre-back, a central midfielder, or even as a centre-forward. Her international experience and athletic and technical ability could be helpful for Ellis.

At 21, Dhlamini has the future ahead of her and looks likely to be part of Banyana’s contingent. Interestingly, in Morocco for CAF Women’s Champions League with Sundowns, she started at left-back and performed well with her ability to get into forward positions and provide good delivery from the flank.
© Sydney Mahlangu - BackpagePixWith Coach Ellis gradually introducing young blood into the team, Makhubela is undoubtedly a promising prospect. Considering the future, the WAFCON-winning coach will likely take along the Sundowns defender. She has previously spoken glowingly about her, “We are consistently following the progress of the Hollywoodbets Super League, and Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies have done very well in developing highly talented footballers. We have seen the progress of players like Lelona Daweti, Khutso Pila, Tiisetso Makhubela and several other impressive youngsters. The future looks very bright for Mamelodi Sundowns,” Ellis said. With the likes of Matlou and Janine van Wyk at the tail end of their careers, the Banyana coach has previously identified the 25-year-old Makhubela as one of the players ready to step in.
© Samuel Shivambu - BackpagePixThe 23-year-old forward continues lifting her hand for national team selection. She gives Ellis a different profile of a forward and may just earn herself a place in the Banyana squad.

The former youth international has previously shone in the CAF Champions League, and Ellis would have been watching her.
© Muzi Ntombela - BackpagePixWhile Ellis is blessed with several midfielders with defensive abilities, Mthandi is a skilful midfielder with the ability to unlock defences. The 27-year-old midfielder is a vital cog in Tshabalala’s side and could equally be important for the national team if given a chance. She only got her first call-up in March 2020 against Lesotho in an international friendly.