Womandla: SA women’s sports teams chase glory

Womandla: SA women’s sports teams chase glory
Koketso Mmathabo Mary Tlailane of South Africa during the Cosafa Women's Championship match between Mozambique and South Africa at Isaac Wolfson Stadium on 6 September 2022 in Gqeberha, South Africa. (Photo: Richard Huggard / Gallo Images)

With three major tournaments for global women’s team sports in 2023, two of which will be hosted by SA, the excitement is palpable.

Amid crippling national blackouts and recovery from the ripple effects of two years of the pandemic, South Africa’s senior women’s soccer side Banyana Banyana brought some light to the nation.

More importantly, this current generation of Banyana Banyana players etched themselves into African football folklore when they beat Morocco in Morocco to win their maiden Women’s Africa Cup of Nations title.

The South Africans had finished as bridesmaids on numerous occasions before in the premier continental tournament for African women’s football, but finally managed to push all the way to lifting the trophy in 2022.

That victory booked Banyana their second appearance at a World Cup. They made their debut in 2019 when it was held in France.

For their second appearance at the global spectacle (which kicks off on 20 July and will be played in Australia and New Zealand), coach Desiree Ellis and her charges will be keen to register their first World Cup points. In France, the team ended the tournament bottom of their group, having lost all their matches.

Of course, at that time, they were not African champions. However, friendlies against Brazil and 2023 World Cup co-hosts Australia late last year laid bare just how far behind the continent is in comparison with its counterparts.

In 2023, grouped with the supremely strong Sweden, as well as Argentina and Italy, the road won’t be easy for Ellis’s cohort.

“All the groups are tough, but it is a reasonable draw,” said the Banyana coach when her team’s opponents were revealed last year. “We have played against Sweden before but we have not played Italy and Argentina. It could have been a tougher one, so we are happy with it.”  

GQEBERHA, SOUTH AFRICA – SEPTEMBER 09: Juliana Blou of Namibia and Lizza Mokoena of South Africa during the COSAFA Women’s Championship semi final match between South Africa and Namibia at Isaac Wolfson Stadium on September 09, 2022 in Gqeberha, South Africa. (Photo by Richard Huggard/Gallo Images)

Cricketers hoping for World Cup win

South Africa’s senior women’s cricket outfit competed in two major tournaments in 2022 – the One Day International (ODI) World Cup in New Zealand and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.

In the former group stage, the team showed its quality as it played a mixture of exceptional and gritty cricket to end the mini-league leg of the competition second, behind eventual winners and record world champions Australia.

However, in the ensuing semifinal phase, Hilton Moreeng’s charges fell victim to the long-standing South African cricket World Cup curse and slumped to a hiding at the hands of an English team they had marginally manoeuvred past in the pool phase.

It was the third time they had tripped-up in the last-four stage at the quadrennial ODI event.

At the Games, a couple of months after yet another World Cup disappointment, the Proteas’ form and fortunes dipped even further and they were eliminated in the group stage of that competition.

Proteas India tri-series

Proteas skipper Suné Luus in action during their Women’s T20I Tri-Series match against India at Buffalo Park in East London on 19 January 2023. (Photo: Michael Sheehan / Gallo Images)

During their disappointing campaign the team won just one group match – with England and New Zealand besting Moreeng’s side. Eventually, the ruthless Australians collected gold again.

In the upcoming T20 Women’s World Cup – set to be played in Cape Town, Paarl and Gqeberha from 10 February – the Aussies are heavy favourites to defend the title they won in 2020.

For South Africa, stalwarts such as Marizanne Kapp, Shabnim Ismail and Ayabonga Khaka are not far from the twilight of their respective international careers. Nothing would taste sweeter than finally clinching a World Cup, especially on home soil.

It would also be a great foundation to build on for some of the team’s young leaders, such as super batter Laura Wolvaardt and current skipper Suné Luus.

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Shooting for the stars

Khanyisa Chawane of South Africa during the 2023 Netball Quad Series game between South Africa and Australia at the CTICC in Cape Town on 24 January 2023 © Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Another Proteas team looking to make a memorable splash is the country’s senior netball women’s team.

South Africa will host the Netball World Cup for the first time, with the Proteas hoping to clinch their first world title in Cape Town.

The tournament – which kicks off on 28 July – promises to be an exciting and potentially historic one for South African netball.

The Proteas’ highest finish at the global showpiece was two decades ago, when they managed silver in 1995 in England.

With veteran Australian Norma Plummer reappointed by Netball South Africa at the tail-end of last year, the team will be confident of a memorable home tournament. The 78-year-old is a proven winner on the international circuit, having claimed two World Cups with her country of birth.  

The Australian was recalled to occupy the Proteas’ hot seat after Netball South Africa decided to part ways with Dorette Badenhorst, who had been at the helm since 2019.

Plummer vacated the coach’s seat that year, after a four-year stint. However, after the federation ousted Badenhorst in late 2022 following a disappointing Commonwealth Games run in which the team finished sixth, the veteran Australian mentor answered Netball South Africa’s SOS.

With Plummer back in the driver’s seat, the players are hoping to show they are still a force to be reckoned with in global netball.

There is much work to do, though, as evidenced in the recently concluded Quad Series in Cape Town that featured the Proteas, Australia, New Zealand and England. The Proteas finished fourth, with Australia edging New Zealand to the gold. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.


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