- Four players in South Africa's squad have over 100 caps to their name
- We hear from each of them ahead of crucial China PR game
- Follow the Live Blog: South Africa-China PR
By Busisiwe Mokwena with South Africa
There are four players in South Africa’s squad at France 2019 who have won over 100 caps for the country. Between them, they have over 560 caps collectively. I caught up with each of them to get insight into how their experience is helping guide Banyana Banyana in their debut Women’s World Cup journey.
Leading from the back: Janine van Wyk - 168 caps
Janine van Wyk will be one of the most memorable Banyana Banyana captains. She successfully led the team to their first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup™ finals after 25 years since Banyana’s first international match. But most importantly, she’s the most capped South African footballer, male or female.
She started playing the game when she was five-years-old, but she never dreamt that she would be a trailblazer.
“I am honoured to have come this far. I never thought I would break records,” she said.
Women’s football in South Africa is on the rise now but it was not the case when she started playing. As more young girls take an interest in playing football, developing sustainable development structures becomes key if Banyana want to make more appearances on the world stage.
“Women’s football is exploding in South Africa. I would like to see more resources dedicated to women’s football and a structured league for women. Things will change after the World Cup."
Front to back: Noko Matlou - 155 caps
It was not easy for Noko Matlou to transition from being a striker to being a central defender. After all, her pace and knack for finding the back of the net was how she earned the African Women's Player of the Year Award at the 2008 CAF Awards, becoming the first South African footballer to receive an individual accolade at the event. She is the second highest goalscorer with 63 goals, behind retired Banyana legend Portia Modise, who scored an incredible 103 goals before hanging up her boots.
But Matlou has been solid in the position since former Banyana coach Vera Pauw switched her from her original position.
“It was not easy because my job was to score goals. I still miss it. But now I have to make sure that opponents don’t score against us,” she said.
A lot will be riding on her experience in this tournament for Banyana, especially in their next must-win match against China PR. Matlou has played in two Olympic Games, the World Student Games, has three COSAFA Women’s Championship titles and has represented South Africa at six African Women’s Championships. She understands what’s required of a player when it comes to big tournaments.
She says they are wiser now than they were in 2016 when they last faced the Steel Roses.
“We are lucky that they are not tall like Spain and Germany. They are shorter than us. We will be able to compete with them especially because we know their strengths. We are lucky that we have Thembi (Kgatlana), as she plays in China. She knows some of the players, so it’s an advantage for us."
Solid wall: Nothando Vilakazi - 132 caps
Nothando Vilakazi can confidently say she has owned the left-back position in Banyana for a long time. Since coming on for the first time in the green and gold in 2011, no one has successfully challenged her in the position. Gabisile Hlumbane and Leandra Smeda have had a chance to play in the position several times, but Vilakazi has cemented her place in the position, leading her to win over 130 international caps. Vilakazi has now moved to a professional league in Lithuania.
"I get to travel all over the world because of football. It has played an important role in my life."
Soft spoken: Refiloe Jane - 107 caps
Although Refiloe Jane is still in the early 100s with her international appearances for Banyana, this vice-captain is one of the most focused players in this World Cup squad. She is on course to completing her Master's degree in Marketing, specialising in Sport, at the Tshwane University of Technology.
"We know what it takes being here. We are not only playing for ourselves but for everyone back at home, too."