BIG SHOES TO FILL
Netball South Africa has massive expectations for the next Proteas coach
Australian coach Norma Plummer is just a couple of weeks away from vacating her seat as Proteas coach. Netball SA are on the prowl for her replacement.
Even the recruitment of veteran netball coach Norma Plummer, across two stints, was not enough to see South Africa’s senior netball side land their first Netball World Cup podium since clinching a maiden medal back in 1995.
Plummer — who is highly respected in netball circles (having paid her dues by winning silverware both as a player and a coach) — returned to coach the Spar Proteas in 2022.
The 79-year-old Australian — who has two World Cups as a coach with her native country — was recalled to occupy the Proteas hot seat after Netball SA decided to part ways with Dorette Badenhorst, who had been at the helm since 2019.
Plummer had vacated the seat in the same year, following a four-year stint where she guided South Africa to fourth place at that year’s World Cup.
Read more in Daily Maverick: World Cup dream ends in disappointment for Proteas
After the team’s disappointing sixth placing during the 2023 global showpiece in Cape Town, that finish at the 2019 World Cup remains the best showing by South Africa since the bronze medal they won almost 30 years ago.
Now Netball SA are searching for someone who will build on the legacy that Plummer has helped create for the sport in the country — on and off the field.
Plummer is set to vacate her position after the Proteas’ three-match series in England, which starts on 5 December and ends four days later. Whoever grabs the baton from the decorated Australian will have massive shoes to fill.
“The expectations [for the new coach] are very simple. Firstly, for the coach to have the passion for the game. To have the correct qualifications. To have a history of her own, that will show what kind of coach she is and what her achievements are,” Netball SA president Cecilia Molokwane told Daily Maverick.
“Your work must follow and [speak for you]. Colour is not an issue. Where you are from is not an issue. As long as you’re a coach with credibility, who has what we need in a coach,” Molokwane added.
“[We want] a coach that thinks like No 1. Who will coach like No 1. Who will select like No 1. Who will play like No 1. Who will encourage the team like No 1. Someone who will do everything like No 1,” the president continued.
Molokwane said the federation is not placing itself under pressure to install their new coach. She shared that they still need to sift through the interested coaches’ applications and then conduct interviews. The application process closed on 25 November.
Molokwane said they will take their time, with an announcement of the new coach likely to come in the first quarter of 2024.
One key component for South Africa to potentially reach the heights it dreams of on a global stage is a professional netball league. Currently, many of the players in the country juggle full-time jobs alongside netball.
To have a fully functional league would mean players can focus on their abilities on the court, without worrying about filling the financial gap caused by them being only semi-professional players.
“A couple of our players have had the opportunity to play overseas based on their hard work. We take way less than what we deserve as women in sport. It is a shame that we have to go on the court constantly and compete against professional athletes,” Proteas captain Bongiwe Msomi said after the team’s under-par showing at the 2023 World Cup.
“There will always be a gap. It does not matter how much effort we put in. Professionalising women’s sports is a step we have to take and it has to come with speed,” she added.
Molokwane said the new league should be up and running in two years. That is the target that she and new Netball SA CEO Modiegi Komane have set for themselves.
“The new CEO and I have given ourselves a target that by 2025, we must have that league. It’s a mammoth task. It’s not an easy mountain to climb. But I always say if you don’t dream big, don’t bother dreaming,” Molokwane said to Daily Maverick.
The Department of Sport is willing to play its part in making the dream a reality. On Tuesday, 28 November, the minister of the department, Zizi Kodwa, announced a five-person independent panel which will help fast-track the process.
“The panel will ensure the national league as a commercial product and that it generates revenue for the system that increases the broadcast value and aids professionalisation,” the department said in a statement.
It will consist of Maria Magdalena Bezuidenhout of University of Pretoria Netball, former CEO of Netball South Africa Blanche De la Guerre and Zanele Mdodana – who is a former Proteas skipper and currently coaches the sport at the University of Stellenbosch.
The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee’s chief executive, Nozipho Jafta, is also part of the panel, as is Hajira Mashego, who is director of sport at Tshwane University of Technology. DM