Baby Proteas sharpen ahead of qualifiers

netball25 February 2024 16:10| © SuperSport
By:Busisiwe Mokwena
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Precious Mthembu © Gallo Images

The Baby Proteas are looking to return to continental glory when they take to the court for the Netball World Youth Cup 2025 Africa qualifiers in March.

The global youth tournament returns for the first time since 2017 after the 2021 edition was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Gibraltar, which is a British Overseas Territory, will host the next edition of the competition which will see 20 countries vying for top honours. New Zealand are the defending champions for this edition. 

South Africa completely dominated the last qualifiers in Botswana, winning all their matches to finish at the top. The national Under-21 side has been in a selection camp where the coaching staff will decide on the final 12 that will represent the country at the qualifiers set for 18- 23 March at the University of Pretoria’s Rembrandt Hall. Assistant coach, Precious Mthembu says the camp has been quite competitive and the players are giving the coaches and selection team a headache.

“The camp has been amazing here in Cape Town. We all settled in well on Thursday and have a squad of 15 players that we selected from the previous camp. The energy and vibe from the players have just been great. We have been fortunate enough to get three friendly games here in Stellenbosch including a match against the male team.

"This will enable us to see players who can handle the physicality, their level of fitness, and of course the combinations. We selected a squad of 15 players with different combinations in mind. At the moment I would say it is quite difficult to choose the final 12 because all the players are giving us what we need and what will influence the final team will be seeing players who can really handle playing against the African countries and of course planning ahead players who are mature enough to play against the World Cup countries,” says Mthembu.


The Baby Proteas only managed the sixth position in the last edition of the World Cup which was held in Botswana. They will be hoping to better their finish in the next edition. Mthembu says qualifying for the tournament is non-negotiable.

“It’s very important for South Africa to qualify for the World Cup because we have always been in the World Cup. I believe the training camp we have now is important for the players and us as coaches to properly prepare for the qualifiers as they won’t be easy because the African countries are playing a different game and are doing very well. South Africa, at a junior level, holds more or less the same level as our senior team. We have always been number one in Africa as a junior team but we can’t take it for granted as all the African countries want to beat South Africa,” she says.

The 15-player selection camp has six players who represented South Africa at the 2022 Region V Youth Games in Malawi. Team South Africa took the gold after beating Zambia 66-16 in the final. The team also finished the competition on an impressive 100 percent winning record. Mthembu says the qualifiers are more than just a path to get to the global competition. She says the competition will be used as a build up to the NWYC2025.

“The aims of the qualifiers are to build the momentum towards the World Cup preparations and start setting the standard that is expected in the team. Some of the players have been in the same setup of the Region 5 Games so hopefully they will take that experience and bring it to the qualifiers and beyond. We aim to be in the top two in Africa and we will have to use the home crowd to our advantage. We don’t want to disappoint anyone, we are used to the weather conditions and playing in an environment that is familiar to all of us,” she says.


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