HOPES are high for the Eastern Cape Sasol Women’s League champions City Lads when they leave tomorrow for the national championships in Durban.
A total of nine teams will compete in the tournament at the King Zwelithini Stadium in Umlazi, KwaZulu-Natal, to decide the SA national champions. The event runs from Monday to Saturday.
The New Brighton-based outfit are the only team from Nelson Mandela Bay to win the provincial championships for a second time, qualifying for the national playoffs.
They were knocked out in group stages of the national championships in 2010.
City Lads are geared up for a great challenge when they face Gauteng side Palace Super Falcons, the defending champions, in their opening game.
Tembisa-based Falcons have won all but one of the past three Sasol League National Championship finals. They lost to Mpumalanga’s Detroit Ladies in Cape Town in 2009.
Lads manager Moses Ndlela said the team were aware that the tournament would be tough, but they were better prepared than the last time when they were eliminated in the early rounds.
"We will be travelling with our full squad consisting of a mixture of experienced and young players,” Ndlela said.
"This is the same team that has fought throughout the last season of the league and brought us up to this stage.”
Ndlela said the players were motivated during their preparation. Their spirits were high and positive in the training camp.
He said the presence of former Banyana Banyana players like Phakama Duru, Nomaxabiso Manto, Zandile Makhuphula and national under- 20 player Nwabisa Kolisi would boost the team’s confidence.
"The tournament is very important to the players because it’s a lifetime opportunity for them to be exposed at a national level,” Ndlela said.
"Our aim is to excel in the group stages and qualify for the semifinals and then we can take it from there.”
He said the players were excited. They wanted to win both the provincial and the national titles.
"We want to make the Bay and the province proud,” he said.
With Banyana Banyana players of the calibre of defenders Janine van Wyk and Noluthando Vilakazi, plus goal poacher Portia Modise, in their ranks, Falcons may be regarded the undisputed favourites, but soccer has the ability to spring surprises.
Lads will receive an official send-off at the Nangoza Jebe Hall in New Brighton tonight.