South African netball captain Bongi Msomi admits that if someone had told her 16-year-old self she would compete at four editions of the Netball World Cup, she would have laughed at them.
Stepping onto a netball court for the first time as a teenager, the now 35-year-old could also never have envisioned that she would one day lead her side to a first ever Netball World Cup on home soil.
With the event now just a matter of weeks away, Msomi is relishing the prospect of meeting up with her SPAR Proteas teammates in Cape Town this week as they put the finishing touches to their preparations ahead of the tournament.
Many have played against each other for their respective teams in South Africa’s Telkom Netball League (TNL) but will now join forces ahead of the event which takes place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from 28 July to 6 August.
“TNL has been really good for us, I think. One has to be match fit and have some competition before heading to the final preps for the World Cup and that’s what we were getting,” explained Msomi.
“It will be great to again have everyone together to fully prepare and to see where we’re at as a group. It is massive that the World Cup is coming to our home soil and to be part of it is pretty exciting.
“I think we are ready to take on this challenge, and in saying this, the excitement for now is just about meeting the group and taking it one step at a time in our preparations.”
Having taken over as captain for the first time in 2016, Msomi believes she has grown in the role, especially since the last Netball World Cup in 2019, where the SPAR Proteas finished in fourth place.
“I’ve learnt to understand that I never have to do it all alone, or even have to feel like I’m alone or have to do all the work,” she said.
“I lead a beautiful team that is led by one of the best coaches in the world of netball. That alone comes with a lot of clarity and learning, which helps me so much – to be selfless and brave but also to understand my capabilities, be confident in myself and the people I lead with.”
With over 150 caps for her country, Msomi’s experience is key. “I bring a sense of calmness in my approach, maturity, experience, respect and undeniable passion for what I do,” she explained of her role in the team.
South Africa have been grouped with Jamaica, Wales and Sri Lanka for the first round of matches. They take on the Welsh Feathers on 28 July, followed by Sri Lanka on 29 July, with the all-important clash against Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls taking place a day later.
“It’s a pretty tough pool we’re in. Wales are a great side, our last Test series against them was tough, although we won all three of our games,” Msomi pointed out.
“We all know that Jamaica have been playing solid netball recently, they finished second at the Commonwealth Games.
“We haven’t played Sri Lanka in a long time, but still wouldn’t underestimate any team.
“We seem to be lucky with not having it easy in the group stages which might be good in the sense that it will set the standard early for us, I believe.”
As for the team’s ultimate goal in Cape Town, Msomi has one thing in mind: “A podium finish would be fantastic!”
Details on tickets and travel packages and more information are all available on the official tournament website (www.nwc2023.org.za) with a range of tickets and packages still available.
Photo courtesy Skhu Nkomphela