Spar Proteas defender Zanele Vimbela hopes to continue becoming better in her position both at the national and club levels.
Vimbela is enjoying her second season with Loughborough Lightning in the United Kingdom’s Netball Super League.
Lightning is her third team in the Super League. She began her overseas exploits with Team Bath in 2018 following an exciting showing with the Proteas at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Playing for the Blue and Gold opened other doors for her which saw Strathclyde Sirens recruit her for the 2019/20 season.
The Scotland-based team liked her services so much that they called her back for the 2020/21 season.
However, this was short lived. While playing for the Golden Fireballs in the Telkom Netball League in 2020 she suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury, which ruled her out for the following season. She could not return to the Sirens for a second stint.
Following a full recovery, Lighting grabbed her and she had a stellar first season in Leicestershire.
“In terms of getting some experience this side, it has been vital to playing internationally as well. It’s been enjoyable as well to get the experience of playing abroad and learning different tactics from different coaches as well. I think it’s just knowing overall how to improve your game and how you can match up against other players who have been on the international stage as well,” she says.
Her side finished as runner-ups to Shadine van der Merwe’s Manchester Thunder at last year’s final.
Vimbela says the team wants to go one step further to win the competition and take the gold medal.
“We had a good start to our season, obviously we want to get off on the right foot after losing the final last season. We really want to have a good season this year as well. Right now we are focused on being able to get to the final and possibly winning the title.
WORKING HARD TO EARN SPOT IN PROTEAS WORLD CUP SQUAD
Playing netball in a high-performance set up was key in propelling the 33-year-old’s career. Vimbela stresses the importance of having well equipped coaches and opportunities for players from an early age.
“After getting a scholarship to Nelson Mandela University, I progressed from there as well. Having good coaches in a sport system also helps a lot. It also just comes from getting to go to a good school, which contributes to exposing some more netball. I think I got lucky there because we went on tour for a netball tournament and I think that is where. I was fortunate enough to have gone through a system that exposes you to more structural areas in terms of how the pathway is given to us as players and students,” she says.
Even though the Proteas redeemed themselves in the Quad Series in January, the disappointment at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games still rings in the ears of some.
The goalkeeper is adamant that the senior team is working hard to bring back a solid reputation for the team. She says South Africa will put on a show for the first Netball World Cup to be held on African soil.
“We’re looking to turn things around from the Commonwealth Games, obviously we are picking up from where we left off. In terms of having the World Cup on African soil for the first time, I think it’s such a big thing. It’s a big event. It’s not anything that we take for granted and we have a lot to show for it. I think we can actually compete for a (place on) the podium. That’s what we are looking at. That is the mandate, I don’t think we have much of an excuse as we also have management and coaching staff to get us back on track,” she says.
Having reached the semifinals in the last edition, the next step would be to finish on the podium, a wish that Vimbela hopes come true.
“Personally, hopefully, get a spot in the World Cup team. I am still working for it, there are a lot of good players out there and we have to make sure that we have the right people going to the team. If that happens, obviously I want to get a medal around my neck and have a good season all around,” says.
The return of Norma Plummer in the Proteas fold seems to be yielding the right results for the national team. Vimbela reckons the technical team plays a role in changing the Proteas for the better.
“We have been learning a lot from Norma and the coaching staff. A lot. It’s been really valuable and I think it’s also important to get some knowledge from other coaches as well. It has been vital for us to learn from such experiences, I think it’s a learning curve. Being on a learning curve on how we can progress from lessons we had in the previous year, we move on from there. We are looking forward to the future in terms of how netball will be shown on the international stage again when we represent South Africa,” she says.