Netball World Cup 2023: Zanele Vimbela aiming for 'nothing less than a gold medal'
The SPAR Proteas' defender shared the ambition during the #SkyNetballWatchalong
By Emma Thurston
Last Updated: 28/05/20 6:41pm
South African defender Zanele Vimbela has her sights fixed on a gold medal at a home Netball World Cup in 2023.
The last edition of the competition was her first taste of World Championship netball; however, experience at the 2014 and 2018 Commonwealth Games means that she knows her way around an elite netball court.
Vimbela, speaking about the SPAR Proteas' ambitions during a Sky Sports watchalong, shared her message with conviction. It was unpromoted and delivered in a way which eradicates any thought that she's saying something that a host nation player believes they 'should' say.
The SPAR Proteas' last Netball World Cup campaign in Liverpool did not end with a medal. Instead, they met the wrath of a wounded England side in the bronze play-off. However, their campaign highlighted the considerable progress made under head coach Norma Plummer.
Just two goals separated South Africa and Australia in their semi-final, with Plummer's side winning the second half, and they beat Jamaica in the preliminary stage.
Prior to the competition, they'd knocked England over during the Quad Series and taken New Zealand to extra-time. With a suite of work like that, it's no wonder that Vimbela has the belief that 2023 could be their finest hour.
"It's important for us to go out and do well in a home World Cup, particularly in front of our crowd, because we want nothing less than a gold medal - a trophy - and we're going to have to put in the work for it.
"All of the teams are going to be going for that top spot, so we're really going to have our work cut out for ourselves. We'll just have to continue working hard for that."
Had to admit this was a bit of a 'sore spot' losing the match, but looking forward to have our amazing supporters rally behind our @Netball_SA Spar Proteas(hopefully we'll be able to have a crowd by then) as we compete for gold in #NWC2023 🏅🏅🏆 yes, I said Gold!! 😅👌🏾💪🏾💪🏾 https://t.co/ZgHDP8qv1t— Zan Vimbela (@Zan_Vimbela) May 25, 2020
It must be noted that this hard work will be happening without Plummer, as her tenure with them finished on the final day in Liverpool. However, one of the things she worked on with the group was their self-belief, as she shared with Sky Sports.
"When I first took South Africa over, so many of them were doing clearing leads. I asked why and they all said that they were opening up the path.
"I don't know who introduced clearing leads? But to me, that's overdose and players not actually challenging themselves.
"What we brought to the table was that they learned how to beat their opponents. They started to realise that they could match up and that's when it was so good."
It was teaching them about self-belief and that they didn't have to be scared of any player out there. All they had to do was have us to teach them how to handle it. It was beautiful to watch that change.
Norma Plummer about the SPAR Proteas
This new level of self-belief is something that will remain with the players and you wouldn't be surprised if Plummer, who creates strong relationships with her athletes, will be on hand for a phone call or two if any need her.
What will also remain with those who took to court for the bronze play-off in Liverpool, will be a level of discomfort and an itch they can't stratch yet.
"The whole feeling in that game was that the connections weren't great," mid-courter Erin Burger said during the watchalong.
"A lot of that influenced our timing in attack, we really struggled to get the ball through. It felt like we laboured.
"We worked a lot harder than we needed to. It's because of England's pressure of course, but we got into a good rhythm in the Australia game - playing really direct netball - and it was something we struggled with in this match."
Any player or coach who has won a major competition will share the importance of experience. Some have the ability to nail it on the greatest stage at the first time of asking. However, most need to experience the flip side before triumphing.
South Africa, like other netballing nations, experienced retirements after Netball World Cup 2019 and their competitions since have been focused on giving key players' opportunities and establishing themselves under new head coach Dorette Badenhorst.
The talent is there and now it's likely to be more about opportunity. Plummer was with her players three times a year and missed there being a major competition played in Africa,
"If we could have had the opportunity like Australia had, to be able to have camps, financial back-up and the competition, anything could have happened," the former head coach said.
With all netball on hold right now, and a level of uncertainty surrounding the routes forwards, when it does return ensuring that opportunities are there ahead of 2023 will be vital.
These opportunities will be vital for the hosts' chances and will help to boost netball's standard and maintain its upward trajectory.
"The World Cup is a really big event to bring to South Africa," concluded Vimbela.
"The Africa Netball Cup and the Test series against England were both in Cape Town last year. The support for them helps us to spread the word of netball out there and that's important."