Ramalepe eyes a Cosafa cup hat-trick

Banyana defender Lebohang Ramalepe and her team-mates have a lot to offer when they face Zambia in the Cosafa Cup final this afternoon. Picture: Sydney Mahlangu / BackpagePix
Banyana defender Lebohang Ramalepe and her team-mates have a lot to offer when they face Zambia in the Cosafa Cup final this afternoon. Picture: Sydney Mahlangu / BackpagePix

Unbeaten in their past four matches and third in the Cosafa Cup final.

There was no better way for Banyana Banyana to erase the setbacks of their maiden World Cup appearance in France recently.

Coach Desiree Ellis’ side face Zambia in the final of the regional competition today, and South Africa are gunning for a third straight title.

The decider will take place at the Wolfson Stadium (2pm kick-off), the same venue where Banyana has left a trail of destruction since the tournament kicked off almost a fortnight ago.

The hosts won all of their group matches and scored 23 goals in the process.

Banyana beat Zimbabwe 3-1 in the semifinals on Thursday, while Zambia defeated Botswana 4-0 to set a date with South Africa.

This is a confrontation Banyana defender Lebohang Ramalepe described as their most difficult fixture, citing fatigue as a threat.

“We have played four games already and the fifth one is going to be difficult because fatigue has set in,” said the fullback, who was part of the Banyana team that suffered a first-round elimination without a win at the World Cup in France.

It has been a long, hard six months for Banyana, who have been in camps at various intervals since their build-up to the global championships.

“Yes, the body is tired, but we just have to push ourselves as athletes and do our best.

“Going into the final, we just have to stay composed and execute our game plan,” said the right-back from Ga-Kgapane in Limpopo.

“When we started the competition [Cosafa], our main objective was to reach the final.

“We expect to go in with the same mentality we had in game one.”

Banyana scored their biggest victory in their history with a 17-0 demolition of Comoros Islands in the first round. They followed that up with a 3-1 win over Malawi and put another three past Madagascar in a 3-0 triumph.

Ramalepe and her team-mates are well aware of the country’s expectations, especially as the team has enjoyed good backing from the community of KwaZakhele township, who have packed the local stadium on each occasion Banyana has played.

“The pressure is there because we are at home and everyone is expecting good results.

“We just have to stay focused and get it right,” said Ramalepe, one of the scorers against Malawi.

Zambia are appearing in their maiden Cosafa final.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe crushed Botswana 3-0 in their bronze medal match at Wolfson Stadium yesterday.

Earlier in the day, the South African Under-17s, Basetsana, beat their Zimbabwean counterparts 5-3 on penalties to claim the bronze medal in their Cosafa Under-20 Championships play-off clash at the same venue.

The game ended 1-1 in regulation time before coach Simphiwe Dludlu’s side prevailed during the penalty shoot-out.

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