clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

USA vs. South Africa, 2023 Friendly: Scouting South Africa

The USWNT attempts to turn the page.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Netherlands v South Africa: Round of 16 - FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Photo by Mark Metcalfe - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

Following a disappointing showing at the 2023 World Cup, the United States Women’s National Team is entering a new era or, at least, will once a manager is appointed. There is a chance for redemption on the immediate horizon, with the next edition of the Olympics taking place this upcoming summer in Paris, France. The road to the City of Light starts with a pair of friendlies against South Africa, which is coming off an impressive showing in New Zealand and Australia. The first fixture is scheduled for TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, followed by the second at Chicago, Illinois’ Soldier Field.

This is the third all-time meeting between the two nations, with the USWNT triumphing in both previous matches. Ranked 45th internationally by FIFA, South Africa had a strong performance at the 2023 World Cup, finishing second in Group G with four points following a 2-1 loss to Sweden, a 2-2 draw against Argentina, and a potentially program-altering 3-2 victory over Italy. Banyana Banyana’s run ended in the Round of 16 with a 2-0 defeat to The Netherlands, the longest run after a winless exit in the group stage when debuting at the 2019 edition.

Following her tenure in charge of Cape Town’s Spurs W.F.C. as well as assistant and interim roles with the national team, Desiree Ellis was appointed to lead the program in February of 2018. The 60-year-old retired midfielder has achieved the glories that eluded her as a player, claiming the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations and three COSAFA Women’s Championships, along with being awarded the country’s Order of Ikhamanga. She rued the missed opportunities in the Round of 16 but noted that the team punched above weight in spite of lacking a domestic professional league.

Ellis named a 23-player roster for the pair of friendlies, a strong group that comprises the majority of the World Cup squad. The domestic SAFA Women’s League is home to 17 call-ups, while the other six talents are spread across various competitions in Europe, the United States, Mexico, and South Korea. Stalwart veterans Refiloe Jane and Bambanani Mbane are out with injuries.


GOALKEEPERS (3): Kaylin Swart (JVW), Andile Dlamini (Mamelodi Sundowns), Katlego Moletsane (Royal AM)

DEFENDERS (7): Karabo Dhlamini (Mamelodi Sundowns), Fikile Magama (University of the Western Cape), Lebohang Ramalepe (Mamelodi Sundowns), Tiisetso Makhubela (Mamelodi Sundowns), Lonathemba Mhlongo (University of the Western Cape), Noko Matlou (Eibar), Bongeka Gamede (University of the Western Cape)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Linda Motlhalo (Glasgow City), Kholosa Biyana (Mamelodi Sundowns), Nomvula Kgoale (TS Galaxy), Sibulele Holweni (University of the Western Cape), Robyn Moodaly (JVW), Sinoxolo Cesane (East Tennessee State)

FORWARDS (7): Gabriela Salgado (JVW), Jermaine Seoposenwe (Monterrey), Noxolo Cesane (University of the Western Cape), Melinda Kgadiete (Mamelodi Sundowns), Wendy Shongwe (University of Pretoria), Hildah Magaia (Sejong Sportstoto), Thembi Kgatlana (Racing Louisville)


South Africa typically lines up in a 4-4-2 formation with a buzzy front line that is constantly shifting, countering, and looking for angles to enter into the box. The team will pick moments to engage in the high press and clog the center of the field when necessary, adapting to the opponent’s tactics. According to Total Football Analysis, the attack uses caution in possession and “is happy to take additional steps where needed to ensure that opportunities do not end prematurely.”

Projected South Africa Starting XI (via

Having supplanted Andile Dlamini, Kaylin Swart is expected to continue as the team’s number one following four starts at the World Cup. Despite the critical error that cemented South Africa’s exit from the competition, the 28-year-old Menlo College alumnus made several key saves. She is a shot-stopper, quick to come off of her line, and drills most of her passes high up the field. Quick reflexes enable her to adjust on short-range opportunities and meet attackers charging in on goal.

Noko Matlou signed her first professional contract in 2021 with Eibar and perhaps embodies the program’s rise, continuing to play an important role after a mid-career switch from striker to defender. The 2008 African Women’s Footballer of the Year is strong on the ball and brings veteran experience that can lower the temperature of proceedings. Her likely back-line partner is Bongeka Gamede, standing all of 5’3”. The physical 24-year-old was one of the most active centre-backs at the World Cup and racked up tackles.

At left fullback is Karabo “Cream” Dhlamini, who recently joined Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies after two seasons with Oakland University and played a “vital role” to claim the domestic title. She can line up at a variety of positions and is praised for her “[athleticism], technical ability, and exceptional soccer IQ.” On the other side of the formation is Lebogang Ramalepe who recently returned home following an injury-tinged stint with Dinamo Minsk in Belarus. The energetic 31-year-old from Limpopo with “turbo-charged performances” is described as “an avid crosser of the ball and dynamic presence down the flanks.”

One of the standouts at the World Cup was Kholosa Biyana, the University of the Western Cape midfielder who recently spent a few years in Spain. She drills long passes around the field, racking up hockey assists with through balls over the top which are then centered to an attacker. Robyn Moodaly started in the center of the formation against Italy at the World Cup. The 29-year-old from Eastern Cape brings an attacking mindset and the temerity to shoot from distance while also demonstrating a willingness to throw herself into heavy tackles.

Jermaine “Jay” Seoposenwe has spent the past few years globetrotting with passport stamps in Lithuania, Spain, Portugal, and Mexico. The Samford University alumnus drives up the wing with pace and forces defenders into constant foot races, with above-average technical ability and shooting that cause issues in the final third. One of the brightest stars at the World Cup, Racing Louisville FC’s Thembi Kgatlana can line up across the front line. She uses her low center of gravity to absorb contact and make her way behind center backs, often drifting into the center and serving as an additional striker.

Sitting in the hole is Linda Motlhalo, the high-octane attacker who is currently on the books at Glasgow City in the Scottish Women’s Premier League. The 25-year-old is a terror with the ball, has the pace to get behind the back line, and finds crucial yards of space in the box to finish. Hildah “Breadwinner” Magaia, the top scorer at the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations, claims the number nine role. She is fast and reliable, equal parts counter-attacking chaser and exploitative poacher.

Both the USWNT and South Africa exited the World Cup’s Round of 16 in disappointing fashion with the belief that something was left on the table. However, the former nation’s departure was viewed as a disaster, while the latter’s is a positive step forward and an auger portending rising fates. Perhaps moving toward each other in quality, there likely is still a considerable distance between the two programs that will be demonstrated over the pair of friendlies, unless the host’s lack of chemistry in the final third continues.

The first match is scheduled for Thursday, September 21st at 7:30 p.m. Eastern, 4:30 p.m. Pacific. Viewing options include TNT, Universo, Peacock, and FUBO TV (free trial).

The second match is scheduled for Sunday, September 24th at 5:30 p.m. Eastern, 2:30 p.m. Pacific. Viewing options include TNT, Universo, Peacock, and FUBO TV (free trial).