CAPE TOWN: South Africa is truly the Rainbow Nation. A mixture of races, genders and cultures which was on full display during the absorbing 2023 ICC Women's T20 World Cup final at Newlands.
The Proteas Women's maiden appearance in a major tournament final had galvanised the famous "Ubuntu" spirit in South Africans to come out in support of their team.
They came in their thousands - 12 782 - which was a new record for any women's sporting event in South Africa's history. In fact, South Africans had flocked to all three venues in Cape Town, Paarl and Gqeberha throughout the past fortnight that has set a new benchmark for women's sport in the country.
"Our Proteas' Women's Team have done us very proud. They have made us all 'experts' on the game. Many people had not been to cricket before, but they came to the matches to support our Proteas Women's team. They are all now cricket experts. We are so proud of this Proteas Women's team and what they have done in helping to inspire our country and especially the youth - both girls and boys," said South African Deputy Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture Ms Nocawe Mafu.
The tournament was a resounding success on so many levels, both on and off the field, where the Local Organising Committee was headed up by Muditambi Ravele along with many other females as part of her staff. Ihaam Groenewald, who is the Chief Director of Sport at Stellenbosch University (Maties), and a strong advocate and pioneer for women's sport in South Africa, believes not only has the Proteas' performances provided inspiration, but also the successful hosting of the 2023 ICC Women's T20 World Cup has elevated women's overall status.
"The World Cup has shown that woman can! Women of South Africa can compete at the highest level and provide the stage for it to happen. And what a wonderful stage it was. Everyone walking around Newlands on Sunday, and throughout the tournament elsewhere in the country too, there was just such a buzz inside the stadiums. The atmosphere was fantastic. I had goosebumps watching how South Africans were fully behind our women's team. It was unprecedented," Groenewald said.
"My son is even talking to me in the car about Laura Wolvaardt's cover drive. That's the sort of engagement this World Cup has created. It's an ever-lasting legacy and that now needs to be capitalised on as it's an on-going battle," she added. Cape Town's mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis was also full of praise for the way the Proteas Women's team energised diverse communities to all pull together in support of the team.
Despite the Proteas being unsuccessful in their bid to defeat Australia in the final that would have seen them become the first senior South African cricket team to win an ICC World Cup event, the scenes witnessed were reminiscent of when Springbok captain Francois Pienaar lifted the Rugby World Cup trophy on home soil back in 1995.
"Many people, millions, literally millions of people who have never watched a women's cricket match before I think will now be tuning in regularly to see this incredible team play, that's a great thing for the sport. Secondly, I think it energised our country, brought the country together, and gave it a real sense of excitement and hope," Hill-Lewis said.
A half-century by batter Beth Mooney and brilliant death bowling helped Australia clinch their sixth ICC Women's T20 World Cup title, as they defeated South Africa by 19 runs despite a valiant knock from opener Laura Wolvaardt in the final at Cape Town on February 26.
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