Much is made of South Africa’s players that turned out for Houston Dash this season in the USA, but arguably the most consistent Banyana Banyana player has been Canberra United’s Refiloe Jane.
The silky midfielder is not often given the plaudits she deserves, but is the heartbeat at the centre of the park for the national side, and has added another string to her bow – scoring goals.
She and striker Rhoda Mulaudzi, who has not been selected for the African Women Cup of Nations in Ghana later this month, recently signed contracts with Canberra in Australia, joining the likes of Linda Motlhalo and Thembi Kgatlana (both Houston Dash) and Leandra Smeda (Gintra Universitetas, Lithuania) as players who ply their trade abroad.
Jane has started well with two goals, albeit both penalties, and an assist in her opening couple of games for Canberra, following on from her good form that saw her net twice in the final of the COSAFA Women’s Championship in September, which saw Banyana defeat Cameroon.
She has an ability to lift the team when they need it most, the kind of player that pops up with decisive play at the right moment.
“Things have been going well [in Australia], we’ve settled in well. The people have been good for us,” Jane told reporters ahead of the trip to Ghana this month. “Everything is on track, in the two games we have played we have gelled with the team.”
Jane says a good Australian pre-season, which she joined latterly after the COSAFA competition, laid the platform for the team and her own integration into it.
She added: “It is all about teamwork and it starts off at training and in pre-season. The coach [Heather Garriock] has worked hard on team cohesion and that showed in the two games.
“To score two penalties shows the trust and the confidence that the team has in me.”
Jane is delighted to be hitting the back of the net more regularly, and says it was an aspect of her game that was a concern prior to her purple patch.
“The hard work I have put in … I have playing well but not scoring through the years,” she admits. “It is one of the aspects that I have worked hard on, because sometimes I get in those positions to score but would miss.
“I have been working hard on boosting my confidence in front of goal. I just want to be a better player.”
It has been a demanding few months for Jane, who has criss-crossed the world, and she knows that all the travel could have a negative effect on her performance in Ghana, but believes she is in good hands.
“My schedule has been tight, I left immediately after COSAFA to settle in well in Australia. I know there is a good medical team that will make sure I am well taken care of with the demands of the travel.”
Banyana have a difficult group in Ghana that includes perennial favourites Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, and Zambia. Jane has no doubt that the squad has the quality to go all the way.
“We have got a tough group, with Nigeria in the first game. It won’t be easy, but we have what it takes,” she says. “We have the hard work, the teamwork, and now it is just about believing that we have what it takes to win.”
The ultimate goal is to finish in the top three and thus qualify for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France next year. Having had some heart-breaking near-misses in the past, Banyana are determined to earn their place and give some stalwarts like Janine van Wyk and Noko Matlou a fitting ending to their illustrious international careers.
“We have been doing well as a team, we have qualified for the Olympics [in 2012 and 2016] but not the World Cup,” Jane says.
“That is a motivation for each and every player in the team. It is do-or-die for some of the players looking at their age.
“Some players want to retire, but they want to do that having played at the World Cup, so we are not doing it for ourselves, but for everyone in the team.”