South Africa needs own style - Mdodana

netball15 April 2024 10:20
By:Busisiwe Mokwena
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Busisiwe Mokoena @ Gallo Images

Spar Proteas assistant coach, Zanele Mdodana believes a style unique to South African netball is the key to elevating the national team to the top.

The senior national team has been doing well on the global stage over the last few years, including finishing in the top four of the 2019 Netball World Cup held in Liverpool. South Africa have also dominated on the continent and have been able to hang on to their No 5 sport in the world rankings. However, they have not finished on the podium of a global competition since the 1995 edition of the World Cup.

Mdodana says although the Proteas have become competitive over the years, playing a style that is uniquely South African can elevate the sport and become world beaters.

“I have always been a firm believer that South Africa needs to identify or come up with the South African way of playing the sport. Looking at our diversity, taking into consideration the different cultures and player profiles that we have, using that to our strength instead of seeing that as a disadvantage. A lot of the international teams are not exposed to what we have and I think we would be world beaters if we identified that,” says Mdodana.


The former Proteas captain had long been advocating for the national federation to hire South African coaches after the departure of Norma Plummer and Nicole Cusack. Mdodana is excited about what the new cohort of national team coaches can produce for South Africa.

“I am excited with what Jenny (van Dyk) is bringing on board, Precious (Mthembu) and Phumza (Maweni) as well. Specifically, Phumza because she has just retired from international netball and was coached by Norma Plummer. She has all that massive experience of the current play and standard of netball, what we need to be able to be competitive consistently against the top teams. The choice that Netball South Africa has made is to say that 'we are giving our coaches an opportunity and we will back and support them'. So that no one can say we never got the chance and with that support, we can achieve great things,” she says.

The former midcourt star says her appointment as assistant coach came unexpectedly. Mdodana received the call while she was in Saudi Arabia where she was conducting a string of coaching clinics together with newly appointed Limpopo Lilies coach, Nthabiseng Mothutsi. The programme was Saudi Netball Federation’s plan to introduce the sport at the grassroots level in the country. She says she is excited about what the journey has to offer.

“I was completely shocked and blown away by the opportunity. I’ve spent a lot of time with Jenny, just us getting to know each other and putting down a way forward, where we are, and where we are looking to get. We have been looking at our squad and working on a calendar and a plan for this year moving forward. It’s been good, it’s been a lot of work but it has been exciting.

"I am just now looking forward to eventually meeting the squad, and connecting with our players. Some of them are overseas, so that will probably happen when we can have everyone together, once they are done with the international league games that they are playing. For now, it is just a matter of fine-tuning our plan, filling up our calendar with camps and international tests we are looking at playing,” she expresses.

The former Stellenbosch University coach believes that the Baby Proteas have what it takes to finish next year’s Netball World Youth Cup in Gibraltar. The junior national team had a clean sweep at the Africa qualifiers and had a 100 per cent win on their way to winning the tournament. She is confident that South Africa has the best players to challenge for the title in the youth competition.

“It's the Under-21 World Cup next year, Precious and Phumza are taking that team and it is exciting times. We have seen the calibre of players they have got, we are looking at being on the podium. We have got that group of really brilliant players that can do that for us. We haven’t stood on the podium at the Under-21 level, this would be the first time and I think we have got what it takes to do that,” she explains.