After capping off a memorable season by scooping four prestigious awards from the six they were nominated for at the annual SA Sport Awards in Durban last week, the Spar Proteas are already focusing on hosting the 2023 Netball World Cup, writes Palesa Dlamini
The Spar Proteas are motivated to take this year’s momentum right through to 2023, when South Africa will host the Netball World Cup.
The team will finish the year on a high after being rewarded for the great season they’ve had.
At last weekend’s SA Sport Awards, they walked away with team of the year and federation of the year awards, and the cherry on top was when the federation’s president, Cecilia Molokwane, scooped the sport administrator of the year award.
These awards were befitting a team that was crowned as this year’s Africa Netball Cup Champions in Cape Town last month.
In July, the women in green and gold also made the country proud by reaching the semifinals of the Netball World Cup for the first time in 24 years. The event was held in England.
Molokwane said: “This was long overdue for netball as a sport, and for the women who have played and are still playing a vital role in putting the sport on the map. Such recognition can only push us to strive to keep on doing our best, especially in preparation for the World Cup in 2023.
“We are hungry for more [success] and it is simple: We are hosting the 2023 competition and performing on home ground, and our goal is to make history. Let’s make history by making sure that the World Cup remains at home. And I know very well that we have the capabilities to achieve this because South Africa has the talent.”
Apart from home advantage playing a critical role in the team’s success, Molokwane said the euphoria after the Springboks’ Rugby World Cup trophy triumph in Japan had also left the netball team dreaming of following in their footsteps.
Molokwane, who has never shied away from her emphatic and passionate call for a professional netball league, said that if this was not up and running before the World Cup, it could hinder South Africa’s success.
“We really need some kind of intervention to ensure that we turn professional in this country. We need our players to play regularly. For instance, how will we be able to compete with national teams such as New Zealand and Australia in 2023 if our women are not given every opportunity to utilise their skills?” Molokwane asked.
“In 2023, we might just end up being hosts, but may be unable to compete for a medal if we do not make a professional league a reality.”
She hoped that their awards received as a team and the Proteas’ overall performance this year would attract more sponsors to come on board.
“What happened should say a lot to corporate South Africa, that ‘these people have achieved a certain level of greatness and, as a company, they are people I would want to associate my brand with’,” she said.
However, Molokwane was not going to pass up the opportunity to pat the team on the back. “We would have been surprised had we not been recognised. The women have done extremely well.”
Proteas assistant coach Dumisani Chauke told City Press that the national netball team’s moment of glory and recognition had finally arrived.
“We have been number five in the world for quite some time, and not getting these accolades and nominations that are finally coming our way now. It means a lot to the players. It shows that they too can become household names and [be] role models for young aspiring athletes, especially after having performed so well at the World Cup,” Chauke said.
With the work that needs to be done to prepare for the 2023 World Cup, Chauke emphasised the importance of recruiting young players to the team.
“We need to have a proper training camp and invite all players who are eligible to try out for the team, preferably looking at younger players who will take us forward in our sport,” Chauke said.
“It’s about identifying the young ones and integrating them with some of the experienced players we have in the team.
“We know that things such as retirement do happen, so it is about having a strong and wide base of players who we can pull in should we need players to come in to fill a position, or we can groom them for the future.”
Chauke added that having South African players ply their trade overseas was positive for the squad and for the players.
“If we could have 12 of our players showcasing their skills and playing against the top players in the world every week ... you cannot buy that kind of experience,” she said.
The Spar Proteas will end the year with a three-match series against England in Cape Town later this month.
This will be the fourth meeting between the two nations.
South Africa won once during the Quad Series and England won twice during the World Cup.