Mthembu pleased with Baby Proteas in qualifiers

netball24 March 2024 10:50
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Precious Mthembu says she is pleased with how the Baby Proteas performed in the Netball World Youth Cup 2025 Africa Regional Qualifiers. South Africa came out tops with a 100% winning record in the tournament. They defeated the Young Queens of Malawi in the final of the tournament, beating them 45-26 to take the gold medal.

Both sides will represent the continent at next year’s World Cup set for Gibraltar.

South Africa return to the global competition after the last edition was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Baby Proteas finished in seventh place in the last edition which was held in Botswana in 2017.

Mthembu says the coaching team will have to strengthen the team ahead of the tournament next year.

“Some of the players will be going off because of their age. They will be too old to play in the World Cup, especially the defence of the team. Work that has to be done will mostly be on Netball South Africa making sure that we travel and play with other tough countries. I think some programmes need to be done, we need to go around the country to try to close the gap with the players that will be leaving. The Telkom Netball League is coming up, we are going to be scouting some players there. There are also the Spar Champs and the TNC (Telkom Netball Championships), and there are some junior players taking part there. That is where we scouted some of them and groomed them,” says Mthembu.

The former wing defence says the week-long tournament took a toll on her players. She however says the players understood that they had to put in the work to finish at the top.

“Seven games were a bit hard on the girls that didn’t have experience of playing in such a competition but we had it all planned out. It was incredible games and there were some big margins but I think Malawi came back and they wanted it more. We had to have tough conversations in the changeroom and to make them understand the importance of winning the game besides qualifying for the World Cup,” she says.

Players such as Sanmarie Visser, Zané Bodenstein, Syntiche Kabuya, and Favour Umeh will not be eligible for selection for the final squad for the World Cup as they would be older than the required age for the competition. However, Mthembu is excited for the younger players Jade Atkins, Kyla Dames, and player of the tournament Karla Victor who contributed greatly to the team’s success.

“I see a great future for them, especially Jade who is still in matric. Kyla and Karla also matriculated last year, we are on a good journey and path in terms of that. The experience they got this week is something they will be able to pass on to the upcoming players who will be joining the team. I am proud of them and I think the Spar Proteas have something to look at, there is a future in these players,” she says.

Mthembu hints that the Baby Proteas and the senior team will work together in facilitating a pathway for players at the national level. She further expressed appreciation for now Spar Proteas coach, Jenny van Dyk for her contribution to the Baby Proteas team.

“I want to give credit to coach Jenny who has guided me in this journey. She had been with the girls for so long and she has given me some ideas and advice. Jenny and need to have more conversations on how we can close the gap between the two teams,” she explains.

Young Queens coach, Christina Mkwanda says although she is happy that her side has qualified for the global spectacle, she is concerned about some areas of their game leading to the World Cup.

“I am happy that we have qualified for Gibraltar, I am proud of the girls. It was difficult for us in the previous games but the girls have improved. I don’t think there is a lot for me as a coach to do, there are some weaknesses but I think I will be able to polish them. Our team is not like South Africa, in terms of height but we have other players who can work on our defence. When it comes to shooting, we have the shortest players, we have to look into that one because, at the World Cup, we will find players who are taller than us. We have to work on improving the height in the shooting circle by finding taller players,” says Mkwanda.

Meanwhile, Zambia clinched the bronze medal in a thrilling third/ fourth playoff match. They came back in the last quarter of the game to eliminate Zimbabwe from the qualifiers and secure the last spot for the World Cup.

Individual prizes

Disciplined Team – Zambia

Promising Player – Harriet Muchuma (Zambia)

Best Shooter – Thandazile Ndlovu (Zimbabwe)

Best Mid Court – Phophi Nematangari (South Africa)

Best Defender – Sanmarie Visser (South Africa)

Player of the Tournament – Karla Victor (South Africa)