Childhood friends Holweni, Dhlamini vie for Banyana left-back spot in final
Almost every position in the Banyana Banyana XI has a player who has made it their own but at left-back the competition has always been tight between two musketeers, Sibulele Holweni and Karabo Dhlamini.
Holweni, 21, is a year older than Tembisa-born Dhlamini. The pair are blessed with almost identical attributes.
Holweni and Dhlamini are modern-day fullbacks, or wingbacks, who can also operate as wide midfielders pushing the high line at periods in a match due to their tactical intelligence, crossing abilities and versatility.
Banyana face hosts Morocco in the Women's Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) final at Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat on Saturday at 10pm.
Holweni, who missed the 1-0 win over Zambia in the semifinal in Casablanca on Monday due to a knee injury, is expected to be fit for the decider. Even then, it’s difficult to predict if she'll start ahead of Dhlamini, given that the 21-year-old Mamelodi Sundowns ladies star held her own against Zambia.
Holweni and Dhlamini are close friends, having met as teens attending the same high school in Pretoria. The duo's bond was strengthened at junior national teams.
Holweni and Dlamini were the captain and vice of the SA Under-17 and U-20 sides. They both represented SA at the U-17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay in 2018.
Dlamini insisted whoever starts between the two on Saturday will do the job.
“It’s not important who starts the final between me and ‘Msawawa’ [Holweni]. Whoever starts between us will deliver, that's for sure,'' Dhlamini told TimesLIVE in Rabat on Wednesday.
“We were at the same boarding school — Tuks Sports High School — that's where we became friends. We played together at the U-17 national team and we graduated together to the U-20.
“At both U-17 and U-20, she [Holweni] was the skipper and I was her deputy. We have a very strong relationship. We always support each other. If she plays, I support her and she does the same.”
Holweni started Banyana's first Wafcon fixture, the 2-1 win over Nigeria, where Dhlamini wasn't even on the bench. Dhlamini returned to the XI in the 3-1 Group C win over Burundi, the second tie of the tournament with Holweni coming off the bench a few minutes after the hour mark on the wing, replacing Thembi Kgatlana.
In the third group outing, the 1-0 victory over Botswana, they both started. Dhlamini started at left-back while Holweni as a winger. Against Tunisia in the quarterfinals Holweni got the nod but a knee injury forced her off at the start of the second half, where Dhlamini took her slot.
That injury also saw Dhlamini fielded against Zambia.
* Sihle Ndebele is in Morocco as a guest of Sasol, Banyana’s sponsor.