South African sportswomen shine in 2021
This year proved to be one filled with milestones for South African women’s sports.
Despite the progress of South African women’s national teams being restricted by Covid-19, 2021 was a monumental year for the constantly growing national teams.
Though hampered by Covid-19, women’s sports made strides in 2021. The Proteas women are poised to make a splash at the Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022, while their Springbok counterparts will look to accumulate more experience at next year’s World Cup after a 2021 tour of Europe, which pushed the team to its limits after months of inaction due to the pandemic.
Blooming Proteas women
Hilton Moreeng’s team has steadily grown into one of South Africa’s most successful and reliable national teams. In 2021, the team further boosted its credentials after a clean sweep of series victories in One-day Internationals (ODIs).
In January, they smacked Pakistan 3-0 on home soil. Then, two months later, they travelled to India, where they walloped the hosts 4-1 in another demonstration of the progress they’ve made since Moreeng took over in 2012.
In September, during their last piece of the action for 2021, Moreeng’s team sealed another emphatic series. They also beat the West Indies women by a comfortable 4-1 margin.
The team is constantly growing as they march towards the Women’s World Cup, which will be held in New Zealand from 4 March 2022. They will be keen to become the first South African senior cricket team to win a World Cup.
Moreeng’s side has reached two consecutive World Cup semifinals in recent years. They reached the semis in the last edition of the ODI World Cup, in 2017, before following that up with another semifinal appearance at the 2020 T20 World Cup in Australia.
This has led to the belief, both from within the Proteas camp and from outside, that they can push all the way in New Zealand.
“It boils down to our performances. The way we’ve been portraying ourselves on and off the field just shows we are here to do business,” said fast bowler Shabnim Ismail of the team’s growth.
“Yes, it is baby steps towards the World Cup. But the way we’re playing our cricket at the moment just shows that, when we go to the World Cup, we’re going to give everyone a run for their money. I’m really excited to go there and show everyone that we are the South African women’s team, and also just to display our talents as well.”
From January 2022, the team already has a programme in place that is likely to sharpen them further as they garner momentum for that World Cup onslaught.
They will host the West Indies in three T20 matches. Thereafter they will clash with the islanders in five ODI matches a month before travelling to New Zealand.
Stanley Raubenheimer’s team couldn’t play as much rugby as they would have liked to in 2021.
Covid-19 led to the postponement of the Women’s Rugby World Cup. The tournament, initially touted for September 2021, is now set to take place from 8 October 2022.
Despite this disappointment, the team still managed to grow substantially as SA Rugby secured a tour of Europe for them. There they played one of their opponents in Pool C of the World Cup, France, as well as Wales, England’s U-21s and the formidable Barbarians.
They came away with only one win from those matches. However, the experience gained by the team was invaluable, as was the in-depth growth – with a number of players making their debut for the team during the tour.
“We will need to make sure we can maintain the momentum built up on this tour,” said Bok coach Raubenheimer reflecting on the positives of the tour,
“The game time the players got was worth gold to us as they managed to build experience of competing at this level. It will be important for us to maintain an environment where the squad can continue to improve and not fall back to old habits.”
Despite some Covid-19 setbacks, Banyana Banyana also enjoyed a fruitful 2021, boosted significantly by the success of Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies, which is home to key members of Desiree Ellis’s team.
In June 2021, the team was to fly to the Netherlands. However, five members of the travelling delegation tested positive for Covid-19 and the trip was called off, and those who returned negative tests forced into quarantine. In September 2021, Ellis’s team notched up a historic win over continental rivals Nigeria during the final of the inaugural Aisha Buhari Cup invitational competition. However, they fell victim to complacency in the regional Cosafa Women’s Championship a month later – failing to win it for the first time since 2017 after crashing out in the semifinals.
In 2022, Banyana will be looking to emulate Sundowns Ladies in being crowned African champions. The Tshwane side made history in 2021 as they clinched the first instalment of the CAF Women’s Champions League.
Ellis will be hoping that the experiences of the likes of Bambanani Mbane and Melinda Kgadiete during the inaugural continental club competition will be enough to see her side clinch their maiden African crown. South Africa have finished as runners-up five times in the competition.
Netball and hockey
With all roads leading to the 2023 World Cup set to be held in Cape Town, 2022 will be a vital year for the Spar Proteas netball team’s momentum if they are to win their sole World Cup to date.
This push will begin with a Quad Series that England will host, and will include Dorette Badenhorst’s side – as well as Australia and New Zealand.
This series will also serve as preparation for a medal push at the 2022 Commonwealth Games for the Proteas, which will take place in Birmingham from 28 July.
It will also be vital for the SA women’s hockey team to start 2022 on a high note. Between 17 and 23 January, they will compete in the African Hockey Cup of Nations set to take place in Ghana. This competition will be key as the winner automatically qualifies for the World Cup, held in July 2022. DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.
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