William Lethoko has worked for most of his life to earn the right to don the green and gold, finally, his dream is about to come to fruition.
The goal shooter is part of South Africa’s first team that will take part in the Fast5 Netball World Series which will take place in Christchurch, New Zealand.
The 2022 edition of the Series saw three countries, New Zealand, Australia, and England, participate in the first men’s edition of the competition in an exhibition, this made World Netball decide to continue the feat.
South Africa will replace England in this year’s competition, the men’s competition will have three participants while the women’s competition will still see the top six ranked teams in the world taking part.
Men’s netball is starting to get more platforms to compete outside of the continent. First was their participation as an invited country at last year’s Americas Netball Men’s Championships, where they returned with four individual awards, including Player of the Tournament, which was awarded to Protea Pumas captain, Shiko Mokaila.
The West Rand born player says the three trials were challenging and he had to put up a show to get the selectors' attention.
Lethoko is part of the 10-man travelling squad to the World Series taking place 11-12 November.
“They were so difficult because there are a lot of superstars that were invited for the trials, people that really know how to play. It wasn’t easy at all. I didn’t think I would make the team because there are a lot of good players in the country. I didn’t believe it when my name was called that I had made the final team. Hard work pays, I think I worked really hard to be noticed. I worked hard to be here, I deserve this (selection),” says Lethoko.
The 21-year-old is a rising star in the sport, he was part of the West Rand A side that took silver at this year’s Men’s Senior Netball National Championships at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg in April.
Lethoko started playing netball in 2018 for Brothers Netball Club. He got selected to represent his district for the 2022 edition of the Men’s Senior Netball Championships in the colours of West Rand B and although he missed being selected into the national Under-23 from that year, he didn’t lose hope of making it in the sport.
'STICK TO THE BASICS'
His performance for West Rand A this year pleased the national selectors and he made it into the national Under-23 side, and he was also named the player of the tournament in the Under-23 division.
The lack of Fast5 competitions in the country might pose a bit of a challenge for the side as they prepare for the competition.
Lethoko stresses the importance of sticking to the basics of the sport in order to perfect the shorter and more rapid version of the game.
Unlike traditional netball, the Fast5 only includes five players on the court, with three different scoring zones on the court, power plays, and unlimited rolling substitutions.
“I think we should just stick to the basics of netball, trust each other on the court and we can make a strong team that can get results. We are all good players and I believe that the selectors selected a good team. I believe we can do it if we train together, work hard, and become determined, we can make it,” he says.
The Neville Chapepa-led team will be hoping to make an impact in the competition and maybe replicate the women’s side which got their best result in the Series by getting on the podium to take second place behind Australia last year.
The Tshwane University of Technology student says they can use the women’s results from last year as motivation to announce themselves with a bang in the Fast5 world.
“There will be a bit of pressure because we all want to do well. I think they (Fast5 Proteas) will be pushing us to do well because I believe in us. It will be us wanting to do it together, getting the results, and representing our country really well. It’s the first time that the men’s play in the Fast5, I think we should go there and do our best and stand for our country. I think we should make our impact felt so that the competition,” he says.
Fast5 Proteas coach, Martha Mosoahle-Samm reckons having the men’s team take part in this year’s competition is the right move for the growth of the sport.
“It’s great for our netball, it’s great for males’ netball. They have been there for the longest of times and the fact that they are getting this opportunity is amazing. We are excited that we will be having people who will be supporting us, instead of relying on the supporters from New Zealand. It will be amazing having the men’s team travelling with us and we learn a lot from each other. The males deserve to be there to enjoy the hype of the Fast5,” says Mosoahle-Samm