Mthembu excited about new journey

netball06 March 2024 07:00| © SuperSport
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Precious Mthembu © Gallo Images

Newly appointed national Under-21 coach, Precious Mthembu says she is honoured to lead the national team.

Mthembu takes over the head coach position following Netball South Africa’s decision to appoint Jenny van Dyk as the Spar Proteas coaching position.

Her appointment will run until the conclusion of the Netball World Youth Cup 2025 in Gibraltar.

The former Proteas midcourt star had been in the assistant position with van Dyk as well as Dr Elsje Jordaan.

She led South Africa’s under-20 team that won the AUSC Region V Youth Games in Maseru in 2021 and has also coached the KwaZulu-Natal Kingdom Queens in the 2022 edition of the Telkom Netball League before moving to the KwaZulu-Natal Kingdom Stars the following year.

Mthembu says she is looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead.

“I am truly honoured to take on this position, I’ve been learning so much from Dr. Elsje Jordan and Jenny Van Dyk while assisting them. I am grateful for the opportunity to follow in their footsteps.

It was overwhelming when I initially got the news so I did take some time to reflect on if I am ready for the post. I know the importance of the job and I have considered carefully the expectations and the responsibilities that lie ahead.

After I thought about it I felt so incredibly excited to be part of this journey with this incredible team,” says Mthembu.

She hopes that her position will also help breed talent for the senior national team.

“I am hoping to work together with Jenny and Zanele Mdodana in making sure we are building our players so there is depth in all the South African teams,” she says.

Mthembu will be working with former defensive stalwart Phumza Maweni who retired from the sport in December following a nine year career in the green and gold with 121 caps to her name.

The former Stars player reckons Maweni is a great addition to the team.

“Phumza and I have come a long way on and off the court. I am excited and looking forward to working with her in this new capacity. She is a valuable player who will make a great role model for the players,” she says.

Netball South Africa president, Cecilia Molokwane believes Mthembu is ripe enough for the hot seat after being an assistant for a while.

“She has sat in that assistant coach chair with two good coaches, and we believe she has learned as much as she needed. She understands what lies ahead and has what it takes to take us forward. It is crucial for us to perform well in these qualifiers and ensure representation at the 2025 Netball World Youth Cup in Gibraltar.

As we are in the rebuilding phase of our netball, instilling a winning culture in them (players) at this young age is important. I believe the coaching team has selected the best team, and we have full confidence in them,” says Molokwane.

Mthembu’s first assignment as the head coach is to lead the Baby Proteas in the Netball World Youth Cup Africa qualifiers taking place from 16 to 23 March at the University of Pretoria’s Rembrandt Hall. The global youth tournament returns for the first time since 2017 after the 2021 edition was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

She had to pick her final 12 for the competition following a four-day selection camp at the University of Stellenbosch.

The squad will gather for the last training camp on 13 March to finetune before the competition begins. She says having experienced players in the squad will go a long way in helping the team finish on a podium at the qualifiers.

“The final 12 players were chosen based on performance during the training camps we have had. All players who attended the camp impressed us and it was very difficult to choose the final 12.

The team has experienced players who take part in TNL, Varsity Cup, and Spar National Champs. This valuable experience will play a huge role in how they all perform as a team. We are fortunate enough to train and prepare for three days before the competition starts.

We will be working on combinations and analysing the teams we will be playing against,” she says.

The Baby Proteas completely dominated the last qualifiers in Botswana, winning all their matches to finish at the top, Mthembu hopes the team will repeat the same feat.

“Our hope is to finish on the podium and it will be so motivating for the players while preparing for the next task which is the Under-21 World Cup. Playing on the home ground will play a huge role as we will have the advantage of the crowd and support,” she says.

Netball World Youth Cup Africa qualifiers squad

Giada Prinsloo, Sunel Smit, Favour Kamsy Umeh, Phophi Luvhani Nematangari, Sanmarie Louise Visser, Zané Bodenstein, Kyla Dames, Karla Maria Victor, Lisa Ingwersen, Renezia Andrews, Jade Morgan Atkins, Syntiche Kabuya