Proteas are ready to take on the world
The Proteas' victory over Malawi in Pretoria on Saturday bodes well for the future of netball in the country, Netball SA's president Mimi Mthethwa said.
"Now we are ready to take on everyone in Africa as well as in the world," she said after South Africa's 47-43 victory in the final of the inaugural four-nations Diamond Challenge series.
"I'm very proud of the coaching staff as well as the players and we're definitely moving in the right direction."
The Proteas will have a few weeks off and then begin preparing for their next big challenge, the Quad Series, where they will compete against the top three netball nations – Australia, New Zealand and England – in October.
"We still have a test to see whether we are making enough progress when we travel to Australia and New Zealand in October," Mthethwa said.
"We've played them all before and, whenever we analyse the stats from the games, we find possession was on our side, but we missed too many goals. So it's not beyond us to win and we can always beat anyone in the world.
"The coach is now going to start focusing on the mindset of our shooters. Psychologically they get blocked, but once we can get through that, then we will be capable of taking anyone in the world."
The Diamond Challenge, which saw South Africa, Malawi, Botswana and Zambia competing against each other, is a government initiative, and will become an annual event.
Mthethwa said Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, in attendance for most of the tournament, was delighted at its success and had already received calls from other countries in Africa asking him why their teams had not been invited.
"The interest is huge out there and everybody is now understanding and believing that South Africa can play a very important role in netball in Africa," Mthethwa said.
"We'll do a post-mortem this week, but I think the minister was happy and he said everything went well. What is very important about this tournament is that Zambia was not ranked before. So, for the first time, they were playing in an IFNA (International Netball Federation) ranked tournament and can get a ranking.
"We also have so much to offer technically, and can help in the development of coaches and technical officials. We would really like to uplift other African netball playing countries with us.
"I believe there is enough talent to have five African teams at the world championships and five African teams in the top ten."
Meanwhile, the highly-anticipated Netball Premier League is scheduled to get underway next April, and is not just a pipe dream, according to Mthethwa.
"We have a sports minister who gets things done," she said.
"He has given me clear instructions about what he wants this week. There is no way we are not launching in April and we will have to run around and make sure that it happens.
"We just need to fine tune our plans and then we can give presentations to our prospective sponsors and get them on board."
She said the professional league would attract quality players from all over Africa.
"The more players of quality we have here, the more it will strengthen our own players. Already Malawian Mwayi Kumwenda, the best player at this Diamond series, who plays in the Australian league, has indicated to me that she wants to come and play here."