South-Africa

Banyana’s last hurdle

2017-09-24 06:18

Cape Town - Banyana Banyana sit on the cusp of glory as they head into the Cosafa Women’s Championship final against hosts Zimbabwe today.

But nothing preoccupies interim coach Desiree Ellis more at the moment than delivering on her mandate to win the trophy.

Ellis would not be drawn on her long-term future with the national team, insisting that all she wanted to do was guide the Sasol-sponsored Banyana to their first Cosafa triumph in nearly a decade.

South Africa edged out Zambia in a nail-biting semifinal duel at Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo on Friday, and go into the final unbeaten in four matches.

Barbourfields is the same venue where they will meet the hosts, Zimbabwe, in the keenly awaited final showdown this afternoon at 3pm.

While Banyana cruised past the group stages, the Mighty Warriors battled as they squeezed into the semifinals as the best overall runners-up.

But it’s the fantastic apprentice work of Ellis that has certainly given her Safa bosses food for thought.

“I was given the job on an interim basis and that’s all I’m concentrating on,” said Ellis. “If I’m going to worry about what happens outside, then I shouldn’t be here. So far, it’s been good. We have a big final coming up and that’s all that matters. Whatever happens afterwards is out of my control.”

It remains to be seen who Safa will announce as Vera Pauw’s replacement in the next few weeks.

Yet, by many accounts, Ellis has proven that she is the right woman for the job in the long term.

The Banyana legend leaned against the wall with her feet planted firmly on the ground and hands clasped, almost in tears as she said a small prayer.

She had just witnessed arguably the greatest comeback in the history of the team, Banyana having come from 3-0 down to level matters and win 5-3 on penalties against the Shepolopolo.

“I was so emotional … in disbelief,” said Ellis.

“I prayed to God to give me the words at half-time and I can tell you, it wasn’t a normal team talk in there. It wasn’t just the mental toughness or the words from the bench that we got through. But it was divine intervention. I mean, to go in there and say the wrong things may have ended in us being beaten badly,” Ellis said.

The prospects of a harvest certainly look great after years of empty returns for Banyana as they go into the decider high on confidence.

Banyana won the tournament in 2002‚ 2006 and 2008.

Leandra Smeda, the scorer of two goals, attributed the epic win to psychological strength and has vowed they will carry the team spirit into the final.

“We all want this trophy so badly and are prepared to give it our best,” she said.

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