South African sport had a fantastic run this past weekend. All of the teams who were in action came away with the win, making it a great weekend for sports fans around the country. The Springboks, under the leadership of Siya Kolisi, beat England on Saturday while the Blitzbokke beat England in Paris retaining their World Rugby Sevens Series title. However, even more excitingly were the South African women’s sports teams. FATIMA MOOSA explains why this weekend was so meaningful.
On Saturday, the Proteas Women played in their first match of their series against the England cricket team and won in Worcester. The victory also puts the Proteas at 1-0 up in the three match One Day International (ODI) series. The England team are the current world champions who beat South Africa during last year’s World Cup semi-final which took place in England. The win on Saturday also meant that the Proteas broke a 15-year losing spell against the English, who they had last won against in 2003.
It was Proteas captain, Dane van Niekerk, batswomen, Lizelle Lee, and bowlers Shabnim Ismail and Ayabonga Khaka who led the team to victory. Van Niekerk and Lee shared a match-winning 113 runs while Ismail and Khaka got three wickets apiece in the game. The second game of the tournament will take place in Hove on Tuesday. The Proteas headed to England just after the SA Cricket Awards where Dane van Niekerk walked away with the Women’s Cricketer of the Year.
On Sunday, it was the other national women’s team who made South Africans proud with their victory. Banyana Banyana beat Lesotho 6-0 on the day and 7-0 on aggregate to qualify for the Caf (Confederation of African Football) Women Nations Cup finals which is scheduled to take place in Ghana in November later this year. Banyana won the first leg 1-0. The victory also puts the women’s football team one step closer to qualifying for next year’s World Cup in France. The top three teams on the Caf rankings will be representing the African continent at the World Cup. Goals came from Jermaine Seoposenwe, Chantelle Esau, Hilda Magaia, and Leandra Smeda during the win at the Dr Petrus Molemela Stadium in Bloemfontein.
At Sunday’s Comrades Marathon it was South African Ann Ashworth who took home the first placed position for the women’s race, making the winners of the marathon an all-South African affair. And on Thursday evening, at the Oslo Diamond League, our favorite Caster Semenya won the 800m in a time of one minute and 57.24 seconds. While it wasn’t Semenya’s best performance and definitiley not one of her favourite, all that really matters is that she got the gold.
Given all the good things women in sports did the past week and have been doing for quite awhile, the victories are really important for women’s cricket. For the longest time the narrative surrounding women’s sports has been that if women’s sports wants to be recognised then the women’s teams and athletes need to play better and win things because that’s the way the sponsors come in. Well firstly, that argument is completely illogical because women’s sports in South Africa has had a lot of success (some might even say more than men’s sports). Yet, due to the pervasiveness of patriarchy and misogyny, women’s sports has always had to work extra hard to get the recognition it so deserves. Even now with all the victories of the teams over the weekend, the Springboks victory has meant that the women’s teams’ achievements have been overshadowed.
There has been acknowledgment of sorts of what this means for women’s sports in South Africa, but this means that there is still so much more to be done. It took the Proteas going to England for Supersport to show the game live on television and plenty of fans requesting this on social media. Women’s sports continues to suffer from a lack of representation on television and in the general media, often being reduced to the last news item or a tiny article in the sports section. The push towards making women’s sport more visible needs to be happen. Kass Naidoo’s organisation, gpsports has done a lot to make that happen through its highlighting of the various achievements of women in sports. However, much more needs to be done. Sponsors, sports federations, and media need to get on board and get behind women in sports in South Africa because women’s sport is the future for sport in South Africa.