As the only female nominee, Banyana Banyana striker Noko Matlou will aim to follow in the footsteps of Natalie du Toit when the Sports Star of the Year is announced at the prestigious South African Sports Awards later this month.
The Paralympic swimmer won the award for a second time in 2008, when it was last held.
Matlou, a student at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), will go head to head with US Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, Olympic swimmer Cameron van der Burgh, Protea batsman Hashim Amla and Springbok Sevens star Cecil Afrika.
The 2011 winner will be decided by public vote and announced at a gala event at Sun City on August 21. “I’m honoured and grateful to be a nominee alongside people like Hashim Amla,” said Matlou, a former Confederation of African Football (CAF) Women’s Player of the Year.
The Limpopo-born forward played a pivotal role in seeing South Africa to the final of the recent Cosafa Women’s Championship. She was also instrumental in helping Banyana secure the bronze medal at last year’s African Women’s Championship.
The 25-year-old has netted 48 goals in 61 matches for the national team and she said her next goal was to help her team qualify for the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Executive director of UJ Sport, Professor Wim Hollander, said Matlou’s nomination was well deserved and a result of her dedication to both her sporting and academic careers. “Noku is an example to sportsmen and women in this country. She has taken every opportunity she has received and continues to take nothing for granted.”
He said the transport management student remained extremely humble despite her sporting prowess. “In my view, it is because of these attributes that Noku has achieved on the sports field, in the lecture hall and in life.”
Matlou has also been nominated – along with fellow UJ student and national hockey player Pietie Coetzee and javelin thrower Sunette Viljoen – in the Sportswoman of the Year category.
Coetzee made headlines in June against the United States when she broke the world record for the most international test match goals. The previous record of 220, held by Russia’s Natella Krasnikova, stood for 20 years.
Known for her devastating drag-flick, gsport 2011 gSTAR award winner Coetzee’s tally now stands at 225 in 227 tests, and the 32-year-old’s feat is made even more impressive by the fact that she only returned to international hockey last year after a five-year hiatus.
The tertiary institution also has three disabled nominees, with South Africa’s no. 1 disabled tennis player Kgothatso Montjane being joined in the women’s section by top swimmers Du Toit and Emily Gray.
Hollander said for these student-athletes to be recognised while balancing academic and sporting careers speaks volumes about their character.