Phophi Nematangari Led Baby Proteas with Aplomb as they Secured Gibraltar Ticket

We’ve seen her in Varsity Netball playing for the formidable UP-Tuks that earned a third title in the Netball Varsity Cup, she’s also part of the exceptional Gauteng Jaguars side in the Telkom Netball league. In March, she donned South Africa’s green and gold in the Netball World Youth Cup 2025 Qualifiers Africa as captain of the Spar Baby Proteas. 

Phophi Luvhani Nematangari, is not just one of the future stars in South African Netball but she is also a future captain too. 

Nematangari was incomparable in leading the Precious Mthembu-coached side as they secured qualification for the Youth World Cup in 2025 with a flawless run in the competition. 

During the tournament Nematangari had the intimidating task of managing the pressures of playing a tournament at home, a contest that held so much weight with only three spots available for Africa’s representatives in the youth competition next year. 

The Baby Proteas along with Nematangari took it all in their stride: “We took it one step at a time and I mainly focused on my performance on court above all else because we all needed to perform.”

Many young girls aspire to one day play Netball at the highest level. Nematangari who started playing Netball early in Primary School has grown immensely since then. “I’ve played netball since grade 1, as I remember it. And it only started being a dream of mine to play for nationals since making provincials.”

From a start in Grade 1 to playing for UP-Tuks, Nematangari, just like many athletes on the different fields in SA’s Universities credits the Varsity platform for producing future stars. 

“They give us platform to play at a higher level with top teams and players from all around the country. This is where it all starts.”

Spar Baby Protea Captain, Phophi Nematangari

Ahead of the qualifiers, Nematangari led a team of highly motivated Proteas eager to represent their country the best way they could. She was besides herself when heard the news that she’s the captain of the Baby Proteas. “It felt amazing, mind blowing, I felt honoured to be announced as the Spar Baby Protea Captain.”

University of Pretoria’s Rembrandt Hall saw seven teams battle: Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya, Namibia, Zambia and hosts South Africa. 

As captain Nematangari was assisted in her role by vice-captains Sanmarie Visser and Zané Bodenstein. “We worked well together feeding off from each other, just putting the team first.”

Before the start of the competition we saw former Proteas Wing Defender Precious Mthembu and former Goal Defender Phumza Maweni announced as coach and assistant coach, respectively. Appointments that were much welcomed by the sporting fraternity and lovers of Netball. The Gauteng Jaguars player says they learnt a lot from the coaching duo. 

“We got to see the game in a different light than usual. And that playing is much bigger than just playing.”

The qualifiers had Africa’s finest team put in a competitive show, all eager to represent the continent in Gibraltar. Team Malawi finished the competition second after losing once in the competition to South Africa. Zambia sealed the final spot. 

When the going got tough, Nematangari clearly had the golden words because, while coach Mthembu has said she’d like the team to improve on a few things ahead of the extravaganza next year, they team was unbeatable. 

“The trick was sticking to the basics, and to remember to take the pressure off ourselves and play the game we love and enjoying it at the level we playing at.”

One of the biggest debates when it comes to leadership is if leadership is a skill acquired or if some people are just born with it. The jury is out on that argument but Nematangari, who switches from Wing Attack to Wing Defence, seems to have a knack for captaincy. She’s used to the captain’s armband. “Yes I have been part of the leadership groups, my hand is always up for these positions.”

For young girls hoping to represent Mzansi on the biggest stages across the globe she encourages to keep going: “Keep putting in the work, dream big, your dreams are valid!”

Ahead of Gibraltar next year her goal is simple and straight forward: “Just to grow from strength to strength.” 

Her big dream for the future, that already looks so bright, is to play for the senior Proteas team. 

Photo Caption: Spar Baby Proteas captain Phophi Nematangari led South Africa to securing qualification to the Netball World Youth Cup 2025 in Gibraltar after her team was unbeaten in the Africa Qualifiers. Nematangari tells Lonwabo Nkohla about playing for South Africa. Photos: Supplied

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