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The Women's Sports Alliance


Shadine van der Merwe - seeks Netball World Cup legacy in South Africa

“It’s important we make girls in South Africa realise there is a future pathway in netball, that they can turn professional and have a career in the sport!”

Shandine van der Merwe is her nation’s most recognisable netballer and a player who will lead South Africa into a home World Cup this summer.

Despite encouragement from her “very sporty family” and taking up the sport at the age of nine even four years though she was still not even sure if netball was her true calling.

The then 26-year-old also held a love for softball and pursuing her six-year education degree, to prepare her for a possible teaching career, had understandably drawing her focus elsewhere.

“It was only in 2019 that I actually became a professional netballer and so before that I was juggling softball and netball at the same time,” she tells the Women’s Sports Alliance (WSA).

“I knew I wanted to represent my country and was still in between the two sporting codes, struggling to decide which one I would carry on with and make a career out of.

“Back home in South Africa softball doesn't get as much exposure as netball and ultimately with the chance to play professionally overseas I could see there would be more opportunities.”

“I'm very glad (to have chosen netball) because it’s just a great to see how the sport across the world is growing, even back in South Africa as well!”

This summer’s Netball World Cup – which runs from 28 July–6 August - has the potential to provide a further catalyst to that growth and could leave a genuine lasting legacy in her country.

“A lot of girls do suffer not having the financial support back home and growing up in townships,” Shadine reveals to the WSA.

“There's a lot of growth in South African right now, as there is for women’s sport around the world which is great to see, but it can still be really difficult so it’s important that you get that support from Federation's too.

“It's really important to show that it’s possible to representing your country one day and even though it’s not easy and will be hard work, we have to be role models, show support and prove that they can live out their dream as well.”

During her time with the national team Shadine has helped South Africa to fourth at the 2019 Netball World Cup and fifth at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Domestically the last five years have taken her from playing in her homeland to the Netball SuperLeague with Surrey Storm, before continuing her nomadic journey in Australia’s Suncorp Super Netball league with Adelaide Thunderbirds.

She returned to the northern hemisphere and joined her current team – Manchester Thunder – in early 2022.

That year brought her a maiden Netball SuperLeague title, but also presented challenges, on and off the court. It was a year she describes as a “true roller coaster.”

“I think your life and sporting career can be like that with all those ups and downs, but it’s about whether you can love the ride,” she states.

“Either you're going to put up your hands and enjoy it or you're going to be afraid of the heights.

“Going to a new franchise, the Commonwealths, dealing with being a professional athlete can all be a lot to process sometimes.

“You’re allowed to feel be vulnerable and I’ve learned it’s not always perfect out there even though sometimes it looks like that on court or on social media.

Shadine continued; “It’s just so important is to be yourself and make sure you've got the supporting system around you and I'm very proud as well as happy to have that in Manchester!”

The English side won the title last season and are seeking to become only the third team in history to successfully defend their crown.

“There have been people talking about that (winning the title again), but we see it as we’re basically underdogs and I do think (after changes in the line-up) people are under-estimating us this season,” she remarks.

“That’s fine because there’s less pressure that way and it’s up to us to focus on the process and then the results will come.

“Right now it’s a really exciting time for the sport and I’m looking forward to the journey we’ll experience domestically and internationally in the months ahead!”


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