Eastern Cape-born Banyana Banyana players Bambanani Mbane and Kaylin Swart are looking to ride the wave of local support when the Cosafa Women’s Championships kick off this week.
The two are part of the Banyana team playing in the tournament starting on Wednesday and finishing on September 22.
Most of the matches will be played at the the Wolfson Stadium in Kwazakhele, and the Westbourne Oval will be used as a support venue.
Swart, 23, was born in Gelvandale in Port Elizabeth but in 2009, after completing grade 8 at St Thomas High, moved to Tuks Sports High in Pretoria.
She spent four years at Tuks and from there she moved to UWC in Cape Town.
Swart was then awarded a scholarship to study at AIB College, in Iowa, in the US.
While studying at AIB she received a bursary for a Bachelor of Science in Business at Menlo College in California, where she still plays soccer.
The goalkeeper has been in the US for five years.
“I’m pretty excited to be back in my hometown and playing in front of friends and family,” the former Glenville Celtic goalkeeper said.
“I think that is a very good motivation for me, and also for the team, to just be in a different city and showing Banyana Banyana to the whole of SA.
“Port Elizabeth will be a great experience, I think it will be fun for everyone.”
Swart said they were not only preparing for the Cosafa Cup, but for what was to come.
“Having the Cosafa here [PE] and being with Banyana in my hometown is a pretty good feeling,” she said.
Mbane, from Sterkspruit, moved to Bloemfontein eight years ago to join Bloemfontein Celtic. It was only in 2015 that the 28-year-old was spotted by former Banyana coach Vera Pauw while playing in the Sasol League.
She then joined the women’s national squad that took part in the Rio Olympics.
The defender said there was more pressure on her to perform in her home province.
“Since we are the defending champs and playing at home, the pressure is on us to prove to our fans at home that without a doubt we were on top of our game when we won the cup in Zimbabwe last year,” Mbane said.
“Our finishing was bad last time but we are working on that. As defending champs we don’t want to concede goals.”
Banyana have been drawn in Group A alongside Botswana, Madagascar and Malawi.
The national side take on Madagascar in their opening fixture at the Wolfson Stadium on Wednesday (3.30pm).