Are we witnessing a shift in the order of netball on the African continent?
It is confirmed that four African countries will once again make their way to the world stage after qualifying for the 2023 Netball World Cup hosted in Cape Town.
South Africa being the host country as well as currently ranked fifth in the World will be there, alongside sixth placed Uganda, plus recently qualified teams Malawi and Zimbabwe, who cemented their position at the African Qualifiers earlier this season. The four nations will be representing the continent with the World Cup held for the first time ever on African soil.
This comes at a time where competition in the region is as fierce as it has ever been. The She-Cranes took a historical win against the South African Spar Protea’s at the Commonwealth Games playoffs for fifth position. Since then, the Ugandan side has been building from strength to strength. They’ve firmly established their position in the top six, which automatically qualifies them for the World Cup, as well their inaugural appearance in the Fast 5 tournament in New Zealand this year.
In the month of October, the She-Cranes also toured Northern Island, Wales and finished off with a three-test series against the English Roses. After comfortably beating the former two teams, they found England a sterner task. Despite not winning any of the matches against the Roses, the She-Cranes were able to really take it to England with tight margins at times, despite being several players short, and playing shooting superstar Peace Proscovia out of position at goal keeper.
Uganda seems to be the team to watch and we cannot wait to see what they have to offer in the future, especially as more of their players are being given opportunities to play in some of the best international leagues there are.
The South African Spar Protea squad has been up and busy ever since the painful loss against Uganda in the Commonwealth Games this winter. The 24 contracted players have been spotted in camp for many weeks this September. Welcoming back Lenize Potgieter from injury and Karla Pretorius from pregnancy have been some of the highlights for the Squad.
The African qualifiers saw a few debutantes in the Protea dress. Boitumelo Mahloko, Nomfundo Mngomezulu and Tarle Mathe all showed great pride and so much talent in their campaigns at the qualifiers. It is very welcome to see Netball SA back in the youngsters for the upcoming Fast 5 tournament in New Zealand, and a real opportunity for a lot of fresh young faces to showcase their talent and hopefully build a place for themselves in the Squad for the upcoming years.
The Proteas have come under lots of criticism lately, in terms of their performance. What was great to see though, is how all the young Proteas have stepped up and showed that they really want the spot in the team. The likes of Nicola Smith, Elmeré van der Berg and Nicholé Taljaard seem to have established their place in the squad for the upcoming seasons. It has been beautiful to watch how their exposure to the international stage has developed their play domestically and what that brings their teams and the development of talent in the country.
It has been a great year so far for netball on the African continent, with some great new African signings to the Netball Super League, with the likes of Elmeré van der Berg, Nicola Smith, and the Ugandan stronghold Stella Oyella heading overseas. That brings to a total of 15 African players with overseas contracts, with the only uncertainty over star defender Phumza Maweni, who is yet to announce where she will be playing.
2023 is shaping up to be a year for the books for netball in Africa.
African players with overseas contracts:
Sigi BURGER – Severn Stars (England)
Mary CHOLHOK – Loughborough Lightning (England)
Mwai KUMWENDA – Melbourne Vixens (Australia)
Felisitus KWANGWA – Surrey Storm (England)
Joyce MVULA – Central Pulse (New Zealand)
Stella OYELLA – Strathclyde Sirens (Scotland)
Proscovia PEACE – Surrey Storm (England)
Lenize POTGEITER – Manchester Thunder (England)
Karla PRETORIUS – Sunshine Coast Lightning (Australia)
Nicola SMITH – Leeds Rhinos (England)
Elmere VAN DER BERG – Leeds Rhinos (England)
Shadine VAN DER MERWE – Manchester Thunder (England)
Towera VINKHUMBO – Strathclyde Sirens (Scotland)
Ine-Mari VENTER – Saracens Mavericks (England)
Zanele VIMBELA – Loughborough Lightning (England)