'Netball SA has nothing to prove'
Netball SA (NSA) has rejected claims of a lack of transformation in the sport, but has acknowledged there is a need to improve the support system for disadvantaged black players.
"At this stage, we have nothing to prove as far as transformation is concerned," NSA president Mimi Mthethwa said on Tuesday.
"NSA has national platforms, in the form of the national championships, where players are given a chance to perform and show the selectors what they can do."
Mthethwa was responding to criticism by Central Gauteng Netball's deputy president Kgapane Rabotho of the team selected for the recent Quad Series in Australia and New Zealand, as reported in the City Press on Sunday.
"Everyone has an opportunity from early on in their lives to play netball, which is well-established in all communities," said Mthethwa.
"Top players at the national championships are identified and put onto a national training programme, with a view to being given a chance to represent South Africa."
Mthethwa said she believed NSA had a duty to do more to provide players from remote areas with mentors, who could help them adhere to their training programmes.
"Very often, these players go back to their regions, but because they have no one to assist them and encourage them, they are unable to keep up with the demands of the fitness programmes they have been asked to follow," she said.
"We have found that it is usually black players who live in the remote areas who are not able to maintain the required level of fitness."
Mthethwa said nearly all the white players in the national training squads were attached to universities and had access to better facilities.
They also had the support of university coaching staff, who were able to monitor and guide them.
She said black players attached to universities were able to meet the requisite fitness levels.
"Bongiwe Msomi is one of the fittest of all the players," she said.
"This meant that she was able to play much of the time during the Quad Series. Putting players who were not fit enough into the team would just have been setting them up for failure."
Although there were only three black players – Msomi, Zanele Mdodana and Thuli Qegu – in the Quad Series squad, Precious Mthembu, Simnikwe Mdaka and Nontle Gwavu had been selected, but were not available owing to work commitments.
Mthethwa rejected as "silly" criticism of South Africa's performance in the Quad Series, where they were up against the top three teams in the world. The Proteas failed to win any of their six matches against Australia, New Zealand and England.
"We didn't go there thinking we were going to win. We went there to learn and to find out what we needed to do to become one of the top teams," she said.
"We did not win, but we have beaten Jamaica, who are ranked fourth, and one of these days we will beat third-ranked England. If we are going to do that, we need to have the best players available."