Vanes-Mari du Toit
Vanes-Mari du Toit

Netball stars 'want to feel like they belong' ahead of World Cup in SA

By Herman Gibbs Time of article published Jul 9, 2020

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CAPE TOWN - Rugby’s Siya Kolisi and netball’s Bongiwe Msomi have one thing in common: they are both captains of national teams.

However, there is a massive difference in their public profiles as former South Africa netball star Vanes-Mari du Toit found out recently. And it left her with a sickening feeling.

Du Toit, the wife of former Springbok rugby forwards coach Matthew Proudfoot, attended a quiz with mostly sports people in attendance, but no-one could name the captain of the SA netball team.

“It was shocking. Only I knew the answer,” said Du Toit.

With South Africa braced to host the 2023 Netball World Cup, Du Toit feels the time has come to lead the charge for greater awareness that netball is a national treasure, just like rugby is.

If this drive proves successful, netball players will enjoy greater exposure, and with it, more opportunities to grow their profiles in the eyes of the greater public.

“It is time we start to treasure national netball players the same way as we do with our Springboks, Bafana Bafana and Protea cricket players.”

Netball South Africa have done a great deal to grow the game over the last while, and the national team now enjoys a No 5 world ranking.

Du Toit, who has starred for several seasons playing for the perennial domestic champions University of Pretoria, feels the players have worked hard to rank among the elite of world netball.

“The national team players are as dedicated as the male athletes in the country. However, it does not seem to matter,” said Du Toit.

“It is a given that every national player will put in long hours of training and make considerable sacrifices to ensure they are at their best for the 2023 World Cup.

“It will help if they feel they belong.

"It is up to local sports fans to give them that feeling. After all, we want them to be our heroes.

“It would be great if netball in South Africa can be more than just another code of sport. If a player chooses to, they should be able to make a career from playing. It would be a way to grow the sport by having more professionals.”

Du Toit hopes her drive will help to step up the passion for netball in the country, similar to what she felt when she attended last year’s World Cup rugby final.

“The World Cup final was an emotional affair for me from the moment we rose to sing the national anthem,” said Du Toit.

“I felt like I was on the field handling the ball, jumping in the line-outs and contesting scrums.

“The Boks’ victory made me again realise the importance of sport. When the final whistle blew, it felt like the Bok supporters were one big happy family.

“I don’t think I ever hugged so many people on one day. Sport profoundly changes lives.”

The 2023 Netball World Cup will be played at the International Convention Centre in Cape Town on dates to be confirmed.


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