BANYANA Banyana played to a goal-less draw against New Zealand in a Group C fixture at the Tasos Marko stadium in Paralimni, Cyprus yesterday.
Central defender Amanda Sister celebrated her 22nd birthday by delivering a star performance to be named as the best player.
South Africa head coach Joseph Mkhonza made two changes to the startling line up from the side that went down 2-1 to South Korea on Tuesday, with Zama Cele taking over at right back defender from Simphiwe Masina and Leandra Smeda operating on the left wing in place of Gabisile Hlumbane.
Playing in chilly conditions, the Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana, ranked 66th in the world, took the challenge to the 24th-ranked New Zealand side with prolific goal-scorer Noko Matlou a constant thorn in the flesh of the Oceania team with her speed and strength.
But it was the defence of Banyana Banyana that showed the biggest improvement, with Sister combining well with tough-tackling Janine van Wyk, and always assisting fullbacks Nothando Vilakazi and Cele.
In the second half, South Africa introduced Memory Makhanya for Smeda, Mary Ntsweng for Kylie Ann Louw and Sana Mollo for the injured Andisiwe Mgcoyi. The girls in green-and-gold were unlucky not to find the back of the New Zealand net in the final quarter of the match after several attacks.
“We focused on the defensive play at training after the match against South Korea and today the team as a whole, but most notably the defence, put in a much improved performance. This is a great exercise (playing in this tournament) and we should be thankful for getting the opportunity to compete ahead of the Olympics. This should surely work in our favour moving forward,” said Mkhonza afterwards.