This in itself is not an unfamiliar story around in the world of women’s sports. Where it is different for the South African players is that their times together are limited given the huge geographical distance between them in such a vast country. However, far from being disconnected, each member of
the team extols the other team members and speaks highly of the atmosphere with them. “We all care for and want to play for each other, we want to
die for each other on the court,” Simi Mdaka says of the team ethos.
This isn’t what you expect of a team with so little time together, but there is a genuine warmth that each player speaks with of the team and the
players in it. Netball is their passion whether they have one cap or have been representing South Africa for years; the feeling that comes over is
the same. They love playing netball and feel privileged to be representing SA - but they do it as part of a team and they do it for the team.
Whilst talking with the team captain and vice-captain about leadership and what they see their roles as, it becomes obvious that herein lies part
of why the team is the way it is. It’s about empowerment of the individuals and them taking responsibility for their own actions, knowing that they
have a role in the team. “I believe everyone is their own captain in the team, we are all responsible. My role is to inspire and lead by example,”
says Maryka Holtzhausen (captain) of how she sees her role.
By empowering the individuals, it allows the team to do what they love. Maryka leads by example with a passion that would challenge any athlete: she
repeatedly uses the word in her conversations with such enthusiasm and belief. This is about passion, because they aren’t here because of the money
- there is none - it’s about netball, their friends, their country and their team members.
Whilst on tour these sentiments and feelings are further cemented because the usual support systems are not there. This pulls the team closer together
and strengthens that bond. Tours and travel aren’t seen as a sacrifice by them, they seem as a team to agree that they wouldn’t have been to half the
places around the world if it wasn’t for netball. Netball is the facilitator of their expanding world and their deeper connection as a team.
Bongiwe Msomi (vice-captain) is very clear about the power of netball and what it has provided her with and the bond that links her with her fellow
team mates. “I have got where I am and I am really grateful. If I can do it, anyone can do it,” she says as she reflects on how far she has come from
township to the international stage, all because of netball.
It is this awareness and passion for their sport that has brought these players together, but it is that gratitude for being able to play a sport
they love for their country that keeps their feet on the ground and enables them to make the sacrifices they do. It also allows them to help and encourage
each other to be the best they can as individuals and therefore as a team. This is a band of sisters who are united in their quest to become the 3rd
ranked team in the world, but more importantly to enjoy it, look out for each other and bring out the best in each other.