The Netball World Cup is in full swing and we are heading into the business end of the Cup where South Africa, the ‘Proteas’ will be participating in their first Semi Finals since 1995.
The Netball World Cup has been going on since 12 July and will end with the finals on the 21st of July. The World Cup is being hosted at the M & S Bank Arena in Liverpool with 16 teams taking place in the 15th edition of the Cup.
What makes this World Cup significant from a South African context is the fact that the Proteas will be playing in the Semi Finals for the first time in the history of the tournament. What has made this year’s edition even more exciting is the fact that this year has been the most competitive Netball World Cup in 56 years with there being no clear favourite to win.
On their way to the Semi Finals South Africa beat Trinidad and Tobago, Fiji, Scotland, Uganda, and a real exciting match beating world no. 3 Jamaica in a tournament upset.
The Semi Finals have been decided with South Africa playing Australia and New Zealand taking on England.
The Netball World CupTitle contenders in the Semi Finals are:
The hosts England, better known as the ‘Roses’ have entered this World Cup with a clear intention of taking home the title. England has a well balanced squad which is unchanged since they won the Commonwealth Games last year.
At the beginning of the tournament, player Eboni Usoro-Brown mentioned, “We go into the World Cup as underdog favourites. “ This is because England is the Commonwealth Games champions and will be under a lot of pressure, because they are the hosts, they are expected to win continuing their strong form which was evident last year.
They will be looking to the leadership of their most experienced player, 34 year old Geva Mentor who has represented her country since the age of 16 and has played in 5 World Cups.
The New Zealand team known as the ‘Silver ferns’ are 4 time World Champion. They have had a tough time of late having not won a medal at the Commonwealth Games last year. Having reached the Semi Finals they will be fuelled after the embarrassment of not placing in the medals last year.
They will be encouraged by the fact that Noeline Taurua has picked one of the most experienced sides which amounts to 781 caps with players Maria Folau, Casey Kopua, Laura Langman and Katrina Rore all having more than a 100 caps.
Australia are known as the Diamondbacks and are the World no.1 ranked team in the World. Australia has been a dominant force at the World Cup having claimed 11 of the last 14 titles since 1963. They have fared extremely well in the Netball World Cup recently having claimed the last 3 Cups in 2007, 2011 and 2015.
Caitlyn Basset the most experienced diamondback and captain is their main route to the goal and they will be hoping that she will be in form having just recovered from an injury.
Before the tournament Lisa Alexander the Australian coach said, “we are world No.1 and there’s confidence which comes from that.’ This shows that she is happy with the inexperienced squad that she has assembled
The Proteas have been in devastating form dominating their way into the Semi Finals for the first time. This will be their best chance of winning a medal in over 25 years.
Head coach, Australian Norma Plummer is confident that they have the fire power to go all the way and win a medal. She believes they can mix it with the finest in the world. They have an experienced squad at the Netball World Cup with many of the team members playing professionally in Australia, New Zealand and England.
The key players to look out for heading into the Semi Finals include Captain Bongiwe Msomi, Karla Pretorius, Phumza Maweni and Lenize Potgieter.
It is great that a Cinderella sport such as netball is getting a bit of exposure and lime light and for a South African perspective it is incredible that the team is being successful. It just shows how women’s sport is on the rise in the country with Banyana Banyana qualifying for their first World Cup this year and now the netball team making the Semi Finals.
These performances bode well for South Africa who in 4 years’ time will be hosting the World Cup in Cape Town. All eyes will be on South Africa, who will be hosting the Netball World Cup for the first time on the African continent.