While they will not have history on their side, the national cricket, netball and women’s football teams all believe they are ready to take on the international elite at World Cup tournaments over the next two months.
Having qualified for the Fifa Women’s World Cup for the first time, Banyana Banyana had already broken new ground by booking their place at the eighth edition of the quadrennial spectacle, to be held in France next month.
Ranked 49th in the world, the national side were in for a battle, but they hoped to make an impact.
“I feel we are ready to go and play in the World Cup. We’ve had fantastic preparation,” Banyana coach Desiree Ellis said on Saturday, at a joint send-off function in Kempton Park hosted by sports minister Tokozile Xasa.
“This is something players dream of… and we are going there to make our mark.”
The Proteas netball team were also raring to go, as they prepared to go in search of a long awaited breakthrough at the Netball World Cup, to be held in Liverpool in July.
Having failed to reach the playoffs since earning silver at the 1995 showpiece in Birmingham, the fifth-ranked team hoped to capitalise on their recent improvement by challenging for their first medal in 24 years.
“We’ve had a lot of support over the last few years, which is why I think we’ve been progressing,” said Proteas defender Zanele Vimbela.
“The inclusion of the (annual four-nation) Quad Series has benefited us as a team because we don’t have a lot of time to prepare together in camps, but we’ve worked hard as players and we’ve been able to grow as a team.”
While they reached the semifinals at two of the last three editions of the Cricket World Cup, the national men’s side had never progressed to the final.
Ranked third in the world, however, they were confident of ending their lengthy drought.
“We’ve had all the support we’ve needed,” said Proteas captain Faf du Plessis, less than two weeks ahead of their opening group stage match against hosts England in London.
“We’ve been able to prepare as best we can, and we are ready.”