Banyana Banyana caused the biggest shock of the tournament when they rallied to a 3-3 draw and went on to win the semi-final clash 5-3 on penalties in the 2017 COSAFA Women’s Championship.
South Africa will now face Zimbabwe on Sunday, 24 September at Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo.
Kickoff is at 15h00.
SAFA Media spoke to Jane after the dramatic comeback.
Matlhomola Morake: How are you feeling after the dramatic win over Zambia?
Refiloe Jane: Today is a brand new day, we are still not over what happened yesterday, we are still thinking about that amazing comeback, we are still excited about the victory – but we remain grounded knowing very well that it’s not yet over as we still have a final to play against Zimbabwe, which is not going to be easy at all for us. Other than that we are happy as a team and looking forward to the final.
MM: You are 2-0 down at halftime, what goes on in your mind? What did the coach say in the dressing room?
RJ: In the field of play we could see that things were not going our way, something was just not right. We just couldn’t click as a team. At half time the coach reminded us how bad we have been saying we wanted this. She reminded us of all the people we left at home, the players left back home, she said we shouldn’t think of ourselves only, we should also think about them. She told us that we needed to believe that we can come back from the result, and she said whoever didn’t believe must say it so they don’t hold the team back. With those words we came out strongly in the second half and we knew we wanted it badly – even at 3-0 down we still believed.
MM: As a captain and one of the experienced players in the squad, what are you thinking at 3-0 down?
RJ: I looked at the clock and it said 73 minutes gone. I looked at my teammates and we just looked at each other, we didn’t know what to say. But there was just something that said keep going, you will never know what will happen. Then we changed the formation and for some reason we got some energy back and it felt like the Holy Spirit was driving us because we have been praying a lot in camp – at that moment it was not us playing, but we got some extra push somewhere, so we can only thank the Almighty for all of that.
MM: It must have been a relief when they missed their penalty in the game?
RJ: When they missed that penalty, that was motivation enough for us to say we can come back on this one – in fact that miss is one of the things that brought us back into the game because we also saw that the fans at the stadium were behind us all the way. When we had the ball they were cheering us on, and that lifted us. When Leandra (Smeda) scored the first goal, we felt we could still get more.
MM: You make a dramatic comeback. It’s 3-3 in the 90th minute, what’s going on in your mind?
RJ: After we (Rhoda Mulaudzi) scored the equalizing goal, as an individual I felt we could still go on and get the fourth goal, it’s just that time was not on our side. When we went to the penalty shootout, and Andile Dlamini was brought on in goals, we knew we were going to win this one – she is our best penalty saver. The coach selected the top five penalty takers and we just had to believe more because penalties are a do or die affair, you can miss or score, nothing is guaranteed.
MM: Normally captains are part of the penalty takers, how come you were not on the list?
RJ: I felt like it was not one of my best games, and also I got a knock during the game – so I felt there were too many negatives going on with me. I decided not to put myself under pressure because, in any case, I have a team that is willing to step up, some of the experienced players in the team have been in such situations before and they helped the team to get through.
MM: During the penalty shootout, they miss their spot kick, fast forward to Lebohang Ramalepe who had to score the winning penalty, what’s going on in your head?
RJ: When they missed, it was a huge relief for us, and Lebo is one of the jokers of the team, so at that point we don’t know whether to trust her or not with the final kick of the match. But when she scored, it was an amazing feeling that I lack words to describe. Everyone was just excited.
MM: Some players were crying.
RJ: To come back from 3-0 down to win the game 5-3 on penalties is a huge achievement, especially because nobody believed that a team would come back in that fashion and win a game – how so? How possible is that? We were basically written off, but we can only thank the Almighty. Yesterday we saw how amazing He is, with that we just continued praising him, saying You never left us and You saw us through.
MM: And you spoke about the crowd that was behind you all the way.
RJ: The crowd was amazing. We managed to steal them and make them our 12th man, but we know they will be split when we play Zimbabwe because it will be their home team on the field and they have been supporting us, so we have to do something special for them to follow us because they can be very influential during the game.
MM: What are your thoughts on the final against Zimbabwe?
RJ: Going into the final against Zimbabwe in their backyard is going to be war, they are not an easy team to play and beat – whether we play home or away. Now meeting them in the final and in their backyard is a do or die affair. With the crowd behind them, we will have to be extraordinary, we must want it more than them and just go for it. We have to leave everything on the pitch, as it is also the last match of the tournament.
MM: Against Zambia you had to dig deeper to win the match, are you able to go a step a further and claim gold against Zimbabwe?
RJ: After the Zambia comeback, it showed that we have character, we have what it takes to keep fighting until the end, no matter if the chips are down, and we have to keep fighting until the final whistle. This is a game of football, and anything can happen – if the final whistle hasn’t sounded we must just keep going, we must just do our part and let God do the rest.
MM: First tournament as captain, in line for a gold medal, how much do you want it? How are you feeling at the moment?
RJ: At this point it is not about me or my role as captain – it is about the team. We have a lot of new players and we have players who have never been to the COSAFA Cup tournament and everybody wants this. It is not about the captain lifting the trophy, we want this badly and we want to make ourselves proud because we have come so far as a team, the preparations that we went through, Sasol coming in and extending their sponsorship – we have a lot to play for, it’s not just about us only but about everyone who has been behind this team.