Desiree Ellis knows that the only way for Banyana Banyana to improve is by locking horns with the top footballing nations.
And her team will square off against Jamaica at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban next Sunday (3pm kick-off).
The game forms part of the South African national women’s squad’s preparations for the Fifa Women’s World Cup to be held in France in June and – like Banyana – Jamaica will be making their debut in the global showpiece.
Ellis is well aware of what South Africa need to do in order to reach the next level.
“We’ve proved ourselves against some of the best teams. But they play each other on a regular basis and we don’t. Yes, over the last three years we have played against the top teams, but not often enough. If we can consistently play against these teams, we’ll improve. That’s what it is all about,” Ellis said.
Banyana recently participated in the Cyprus Cup where they played against Finland, the Czech Republic and North Korea.
“No disrespect to the likes of, say, Botswana but you want to match yourself against the best teams and you want to improve as a nation. You want to play against the likes of Chile. Playing them really helped us because they too have already qualified for the World Cup. We want to make sure that we make the best of these friendlies, especially against the better countries,” she added.
Banyana Banyana are in a difficult group in the World Cup alongside Germany, Spain and China, so Ellis and her charges will be using the game against Jamaica to iron out the mistakes they have been making ahead of the far bigger challenges that await them.
“We have a good mixture of youth and experience and we want to give opportunities to players who have raised their hands,” Ellis explained.
The South African Football Association is set to launch the National Women’s League in August and Ellis is elated about this. “It’s going to be so important. We can’t expect immediate results but a lot of players coming through from the under-17 will benefit, with the best playing against the best.”