Dream come true for Nematangari

netball16 March 2024 20:06
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Phophi Nematangari © Gallo Images

Phophi Nematangari says she feels honoured that she will be leading the country in the Netball World Youth Cup 2025 Qualifiers Africa. The University of Pretoria’s Rembrandt Hall will play host to seven teams as they try to book a place in next year’s global competition.

The qualifiers will run from 17-23 March.

Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya, Namibia, and Zambia are the other countries that are vying for a spot to represent the continent in Gibraltar next year in September. The global youth tournament returns for the first time since 2017 after the 2021 edition was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. South Africa finished sixth in the last edition of the competition.

The Baby Proteas will start off their campaign against the Taifa Queens of Tanzania in the first game of the qualifiers at noon. They will also face Zambia in the last match of the day at 7pm.

Nematangari says she has dreamt not only of donning the green and gold, but also of leading the team in a big tournament.

“It is a great honour and privilege to be named captain, still feels surreal. But it means the world to me. It has always been a dream to play for the Baby Proteas, but to be named captain of the group still blows my mind. It’s something I don’t take lightly,” says Nematangari.


Newly appointed head coach Precious Mthembu says picking the leadership group which includes Nematangari and vice captains Sanmarie Visser and Zané Bodenstein, was made easy by the other players in the squad as they respect the trio.

Nematangari, who was part of the gold medal-winning AUSC Region 5 Games team in Malawi, also co-captained the team with Bodenstein. Mthembu says the coaching team has to get a mixture of experience in the leadership team.

“The leadership group was chosen by the girls. They had to nominate themselves put their hands up and say they were ready to lead the team. From there we had to look into mixing the senior players with players who will potentially continue and play in the World Cup next year. All three players chosen have great leadership skills and their peers respect and listen to them,” says Mthembu.

The Gauteng Jaguars player is happy to be back on a familiar hunting ground. Nematangari together with the UP-Tuks netball side clinched their third Varsity Netball title in a full Rembrandt Hall. She says she is happy that she will be playing in front of her home crowd as that would help with the Baby Proteas’ quest for gold.

The qualifiers are Mthembu’s first assignment as head coach after taking over the position following Netball South Africa’s decision to appoint Jenny van Dyk as the Spar Proteas coach.

"Definitely, yes, knowing that I’ve got people backing me who are behind us all the time gives some sense of ease into the thought. And this specific venue brings a great memory of winning. We want to play a good standard of netball and qualify for the 2025 Youth World Cup. We also hope to grow as a team and as individuals throughout the tournament. We will be playing for the gold,” she says.

Coach Mthembu says she had hoped for a lot more competition for the junior side before this tournament. The team met for a five-day selection camp with 15 players, which were trimmed down to the 12 that are part of the final squad. The team then met for a three-day training camp in Pretoria leading to the tournament.

Mthembu says she is hopeful that the other competitions were enough to help the players get ready for the tournament.

“The eve of the qualifiers has been a remarkable one. All the girls have settled in at camp with no big issues. We had an opportunity to get a practice match yesterday to work with combinations and to make sure the girls are in sync. There is a lot of pressure on the girls to perform at their best. The biggest challenge is we haven’t had much competition as the Under-21s at international level since 2017, but with the number of competitions in South Africa we are hoping it going to assist us as most of the players take part in them,” says the former Spar Proteas star.


Giada Prinsloo, Sunel Smit, Favour Kamsy Umeh, Phophi Luvhani Nematangari, Sanmari Louise Visser, Zané Bodenstein, Kyla Dames, Karla

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