Maiden Netball World Cup host status offers Proteas goal-scoring edge, performance boost

Maiden Netball World Cup host status offers Proteas goal-scoring edge, performance boost
Bongiwe Msomi of South Africa during her Netball Quad Series match against Australia at Cape Town International Convention Centre on 24 January, 2023 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)

South Africa don’t head into the Netball World Cup as favourites but with a country’s support, they can reach their lofty ambitions.

Australia and New Zealand, as usual, are firm favourites to clinch the Netball World Cup. One of the Trans-Tasman rivals has claimed gold in each of the previous 15 editions — Trinidad and Tobago shared first place with Australia and New Zealand in 1979 as there were no finals played at the time while the three teams were tied after the round-robin phase.

England are the other big-hitters present in this year’s Netball World Cup in Cape Town, having finished either third or fourth in every edition so far — besides in 1975 when they reached their highest finish of runners-up.

South Africa on the other hand — currently ranked fifth in the world rankings — have led the chasing pack in World Cup events.

The Proteas’ best performance came in 1995 in Birmingham when they finished as runners-up in their first appearance at the quadrennial event since being barred from participation — due to Apartheid sanctions — from 1967, when they finished third.

At the previous edition in Liverpool in 2019, the South Africans finished a respectable fourth place behind champions New Zealand, Australia and England.

The national side’s recent performances have been shaky, however. At the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham last year, they finished sixth.

While Jamaica, their Pool C opponents in this year’s Netball World Cup, clinched a silver medal.

In this year’s Quad Series — played at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) just like the World Cup — South Africa finished last, failing to register a win against the Silver Ferns, Australia’s Diamonds or England although they achieved a commendable 46-46 draw against the Roses of England during the round-robin phase.

However, a first home Netball World Cup, spurred on by the whole country, could be what’s needed to give the home side that extra edge.

“I have realised that we are embarking on a beautiful journey that a lot of girls and boys out there will probably never have and we have this chance to not only step out and represent ourselves, but actually the country at large,” said Proteas skipper Bongiwe Msomi.

Bongiwe Msomi, Proteas

Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture of South Africa Zizi Kodwa and South Africa Captain Bongiwe Msomi ahead of the Proteas Breakfast at Southern Sun Waterfront on 26 July, 2023 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Shaun Roy/Gallo Images/Netball World Cup 2023)

Important cogs

In order for the Proteas to achieve their goal of a podium finish their brightest stars need to soar highest, including their skipper.

There are few superlatives remaining to describe Proteas captain Msomi. She is a leader, a trailblazer and of course, a talented netball player.

A veteran of more than 150 caps, Msomi’s contribution as the South Africans chase a World Cup podium finish on home soil will be invaluable.

Not as quick as she used to be in her younger years, the 35-year-old playmaker — who coaches at the University of Johannesburg when she is not centre of the court, remains one of the most influential players in the SA setup.

Though, as she recently stated, being surrounded by the likes of Karla Pretorius and Phumza Maweni means the team — the responsibility of leadership does not rest squarely on her shoulders.

“I lead a beautiful team that is led by one of the best coaches in the world of netball,” she said.

Another important cog is the fleet-footed Khanyisa Chawane who plays at wing defence and centre for the Proteas.

Khanyisa Chawane, Proteas

Khanyisa Chawane of South Africa during the Netball Quad Series, 3rd/4th play-off match between England and South Africa at Cape Town International Convention Centre on 25 January, 2023 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images)

Chawane may not be as experienced as the likes of Msomi and Pretorius. Nevertheless, she brings a wealth of proficiency to the Proteas side. Chawane, who earned her first senior cap in 2018, will be playing in her second World Cup.

In the 2019 showpiece, she was the youngest player in the South African setup. Despite this, she put on performances that were eye-catching at the time. Earning herself a move to the UK in the process, where she donned the colours of Bath for a while, before returning to play at home.

Nichole Taljaard, Proteas

Nichole Taljaard of Cape Winelands in action against Nelson Mandela Bay in the final during day 6 of the National Netball Championships at DF Malan High School on 11 December, 2021 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Reg Caldecott/Gallo Images)

Four years after her maiden World Cup, the 27-year-old has firmly established herself as a vital cog in the Proteas team. She is able to control the tempo of the game with ease. Her attributes will be key if South Africa are to impress in the first Netball World Cup to be staged in Africa.

Energy and sharp shooting off the bench will play a vital role for the home side, which is exactly what goal attack and goal shooter Nichole Taljaard brings to the side.

It’s unfathomable to think that just last year, Cape Town-born Taljaard was uncapped at senior level. Then she was granted a wildcard entry to be part of Proteas’ Commonwealth Games squad.

She has not looked back since. Even though she is yet to firmly entrench herself in the starting lineup, the 26-year-old provides a great option for the coaching staff as an energetic and efficient substitute.

In what will be her World Cup debut, she is keen to repay the faith that has been shown in her over the last year or so.

Bongiwe Msomi

Netball South Africa CEO Blanche de la Guerre chats to South Africa Captain Bongiwe Msomi (centre) at Southern Sun Waterfront on 26 July, 2023 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Shaun Roy/Gallo Images/Netball World Cup 2023)

Africa’s pride

The City of Cape Town has gone the extra mile to create awareness for the global showpiece — with it being the first-ever Netball World Cup to be hosted in the continent.

There have been murals painted across the city to commemorate the countdown to the event. A temporary fan park has also been built outside the CTICC as well as concerts taking place in the week-long build-up to the event.

There are three other teams from Africa at the tournament with the sixth-ranked Malawi ‘Queens’ featuring in their seventh World Cup, the eighth-ranked Uganda ‘She Cranes’ appearing for the fourth time and the Zimbabwe ‘Gems’ qualifying for only the third time.

Uganda sprung a surprise at the Commonwealth Games last year, beating South Africa 48-54 in the fifth-place playoff.

While a top-six finish will be the aim for Zimbabwe and Malawi. All four nations represent a continent supporting them on the biggest netball stage.

 “This is not about us only but something way bigger than us,” Msomi said. DM


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