Two world cups that South Africa has been participating in are coming to an end, and the Springboks have announced their team for their campaign. Thus, it is time to look at how the country fared in the Netball and the FIFA Women’s World Cup as well as what the Rugby World Cup has in store for the defending champions.
Having been placed in a group with Wales, Sri Lanka, and Jamaica for the first stage of the World Cup, the Proteas were the favourites to finish top in their group. Yet, after two convincing wins in their first two matches, they slipped against the formidable Jamaican side and finished second. During the second stage, the Proteas found themselves placed in group G. After a comfortable win against Trinidad and Tobago it was time for their biggest challenge in the tournament yet – New Zealand. The match was a cagey affair and ended in a 48 all draw, which meant South Africa had to win their final match and New Zealand had to lose. Unfortunately, New Zealand did not lose, and South Africa finished third in their group, knocking them out of the title run. Later in a match to be forgotten, South Africa lost to Uganda, whom they previously beat in the tournament. This resulted in South Africa being placed sixth overall.
At the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Banyana Banyana found themselves in the group of death. In their first game against Sweden, who rank third compared to South Africa’s 54th, they put on a valiant display but faltered to a 2-1 defeat. In their next match, South Africa gave all they got and secured a point with a 2-2 draw against Argentina. Meaning that the final game against Italy would determine if the African Cup of Nations champs would progress. With a dramatic extra time winning goal from Thembi Kgatlana, Banyana Banyana ended second in their group with a 3-2 victory over Italy. Yet, the up-hill battle only seemed to become steeper. In the round of 16, they were drawn against another top ten ranked side – the Netherlands. Sadly, our women in yellow could not prevail and were knocked out. Despite that, Banyana Banyana have done this country proud as they represent the farthest that this nation has ever progressed in any FIFA World Cup, men and women.
On 8 August, the 33-man squad was announced for the World Cup. With the squad consisting of 22 returning faces from the previous World Cup, there were omissions and surprising inclusions. The likes of Handré Pollard, Lood De Jager and Lukhanyo Am were left out due to injury setbacks but are a part of the standby squad. At the same time, new faces like Canan Moodie, only 20 years old, and Jean Kleyn were selected for the core group. It looks like the defending champions will have a good mixture of new faces but also experienced hands going into the upcoming tournament. This is necessary because on 8 September they will find themselves in a difficult group with the likes of Ireland and Scotland. Furthermore, a harsh bracket could see them face the likes of France or New Zealand directly after the knockouts.
Overall, the world cups have been an unpredictable and entertaining affair, and we are only half way through the ones that are on offer. So, get ready as the non-stop sport action continues.