Nketsa hopes her journey inspires youngsters to dream

netball04 March 2023 11:29| © SuperSport
Refiloe Nketsa ©

Refiloe Nketsa hopes to use her netball career to inspire and motivate many children from around the country, especially those that come from disadvantaged and rural areas to dream. The midcourt player saw her talent uproot her from Matatiele in the Eastern Cape to the Free State where she is now making a name for herself.

She made former Spar Proteas coach, Dorette Badenhorst squad that was meant to play in a series against Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago in October 2021 but the trip to the Caribbean was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. However the 2021 edition of the Africa Netball Cup in Windhoek, Namibia provided a platform for her to earn her first senior cap in South Africa’s 78-27 win over the Zimbabwe Gems.

The 22-year old has however represented the country at different levels. She has donned the green and goal for the national Under-16 team that won the Confederation of School Sport Associations of Southern Africa Championship in Lesotho and was part of the 2019 Under-18 side that toured in New Zealand for the International Schoolgirls Challenge. She made the Spar Baby Proteas team that faced the SA President’s XII in the 2021 edition of the Diamond Challenge.

Nketsa says being a Protea is evidence that anyone can be able to reach their dream.

“I want to touch as many hearts as possible through netball. We are a very huge and wide country so the most we can do for the younger children who are looking up to us is to give them hope. Especially as black children, to give them hope that they can literally do anything that they see themselves doing. Only if you follow the procedures, the journey and believe in yourself and be thankful for everything that you achieve on the way and not forget who you are,” says Nketsa.

Her journey on the national team has turned her into a hero in her hometown.

“Some of them call me sis’ Refiloe now which is so weird but it’s the respect that comes with being in such a huge and beautiful setup. And it doesn’t go unnoticed that it’s an honour for me to be called sis Refiloe by children that I grew up playing with on the streets. To be seen as an idol means a lot on its own. It pushes you to keep on going forward and remember that there are people you are working for, it’s not just you,” she says.

Nketsa, who has called Bloemfontein home since Grade 11, is being groomed by one of the best coaches in the country. Burta de Kock has mentored some of the top players in the country including Karla Pretorius, Khanyisa Chawane, and former Proteas captain Maryka Holtzhausen.

“In my Grade 12, I was invited to train with Kovsies, the University of the Free State, and that is where they saw the potential I have. It’s my fifth year in Bloemfontein and it has been a very big instrument for me to make it into the Spar Proteas setup and to be recognised as well. We work a lot on giving more players recognition and for more depth in the Spar Proteas,” she says.

The Free State Crinums player says de Kock, who was recently elected to serve on the new World Netball Coaching Advisory Panel, pushes players to be the best versions of themselves.

“She is a very supportive coach. She tells you what she expects from you as a player and she tells you what she sees you can do. So the more time you spend with her, the more you understand how and what she wants you to improve on. She gives a lot of advice so you basically have to trust in the process, follow her instructions and work on the skills she wants you to see growing,” she says.

She adds that she gets a similar work ethic from Proteas coach, Norma Plummer.

“I want to say she is no different to coach Burta because they are very straightforward people. She tells you what she wants you to do and if you start derailing from her plan, she then sits you out and tells you what she expected then from there you can go and watch the mistakes you did and how to better that. She is for improvement,” she explains.

Nketsa admits that being a student-athlete is a difficult task to juggle but being in the same varsity with teammate, Chawane makes things a bit easier as she gets the advice she needs on how to handle being a fulltime student and a national team player. The bachelor of social sciences student hopes that being part of the senior national team will also open doors for her to play overseas in the more competitive leagues.