A victory in opening game will give SA hope - Molokwane

netball24 July 2023 13:24
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Cecilia Molokwane © Gallo Images

Pressure and excitement are building for the Spar Proteas with just a few days left to go to the Netball World Cup.

The 16-team global spectacle will take place on African soil for the first time since the competition was established in 1963 kicks off on 28 July and will run until 6 August.

Netball South Africa president, Cecilia Molokwane says the senior national team will have to set a tone in their opening match of the competition. South Africa will face nineth ranked Wales on Friday at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

The Proteas finished in the top four of the competition in the last edition, which was held in Liverpool, for the first time since 1995 where they took home the silver medal.

The Proteas have been placed in Pool C of the competition with the Welsh Feathers, Sri Lanka and Commonwealth Games silver medallists, Jamaica.

Molokwane says getting a better result than in the 2019 edition will be influenced by how the team starts the competition.

“The importance of winning the opening game is giving South Africans the hope to say we are not just following the Spar Proteas but we are following a winning team. When you lose the first game on home soil it demoralises the people from watching the next game, will they go to the quarterfinals? Will they make it? The first win will give South Africans hope. You might think Wales are just another team but it’s an opening game and it’s a big game for them.

We haven’t put so much effort and resources into this team for us not to end up on the podium. We have done something we had never done before, we did Project Victory with SuperSport and it cost a lot of money. We did that because we wanted the girls to get everything that they could so that they never have any excuses for not ending up on the medal podium,” says Molokwane.

The senior national team has been preparing for the World Cup since the start of the year. They started with the Quad Series in January, they also headed to Australia for a training camp for South African based players. They have been in pre-tournament training camp since 14 July to wrap up their preparations.

The Norma Plummer led side will receive a visit from the Minister of Sport, Zizi Kodwa leading up to the opening of the tournament. However other leaders in government such as President Cyril Ramaphosa and his deputy Paul Mashatile will likely make a turn in camp to show support for the team as well as the hosting of the World Cup.

“I am also informed that the deputy president of the country) will be at the opening ceremony. We are hoping that we will have the vice president of the country at the opening and maybe before we go there he goes and has a word or two with the Spar Proteas before they play. We are also informed that the president) of the country will be here for the closing ceremony, as netball we are grateful to have the support from upper structures of this country. It’s been confirmed that the Minister (of Sport) will be having breakfast with them and officially hand over the flag to them,” she adds.

The national team is also receiving much needed support from the technical sponsor, Puma. The sportswear brand launched a store just a stone's throw away from the World Cup venue which is fanwear for spectators who will be turning up to the venue to support the team.

“This is the culmination which we started in March. We launched the kit and we said we wanted to inspire South Africans to go out and support the national team as they might have done with Bafana Bafana, Banyana Banyana, or the rugby guys. That was the start of the process. We have a permanent store here, normally, but you can’t have the Netball World Cup down the street and not transform your space into something unique. We wanted to set the store up to let the consumers know that there is a one-stop shop where they can get the supporters’ gear on their route to the World Cup venue. For us, it is about the continued support for the team but also an opportunity for us to showcase what we have in store. Puma’s Marketing Director Brett Bellinger says when fans buy supporters’ gear they invest back into Netball South Africa to grow the sport in the country.

The most important thing when we talk about replica sales is you buy the team replica has a royalty attached to it and that royalty goes back to the organisation which allows them to spend money on their players and invest in them. Buying a product also supports the team beyond just wearing it on your chest, it physically gives some money back to them,” says Bellinger.