South Africa (RSA)
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South Africa among seven qualified teams for AfroBasket Women 2015, five places still up for grabs

JOHANNESBURG (AfroBasket Women 2015) - South Africa's women's national team made a significant step forward by qualifying for AfroBasket Women 2015 to be held in Cameroon from 24 September to 4 October.

After missing out on qualification for two consecutive African championships (2011 and 2013), Basketball South Africa, the country's basketball governing body, felt it was about time to join the continent elite.

The South Africans finished with a 4-0 record after beating Botswana and Zimbabwe in the FIBA Africa Zone 6 Group I qualifier held last weekend in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and qualified for both the AfroBasket Women as well as the All-African Games 2015.

While there are still five places up for grabs for FIBA Africa's 12-team top women's national competition, head coach Kimathi Toboti and his staff found a formula to take South Africa into a seven-team group of qualifiers including hosts Cameroon, African champions Angola, Mozambique, Senegal, Mali and Uganda.

Toboti called up Emmerentia Ledwaba, Takalani Mfamadi, Lungile Mtsweni, Pumla Sathula - a quartet that featured at the 2009 edition of the African Championship in Madagascar - and blended them with talented newcomers Mahlatse Bosega, Buyiswa Gwangwa, Sophy Ngobeni, Bronwyn Tyler and Lindiwe Shabangu.

The result, Toboti told is "significant for women's basketball in the country."

The qualification gives all daughters of South Africa who aspire to play basketball something to dream about - Toboti

"They are full of energy and they cant stop talking about how hard they want to work to go compete in Cameroon."

Even the prospect of facing African powerhouse such as Mali, Senegal and Angola does not bother Toboti.

"It has taken those teams decades to be where they are and we feel honoured to be among basketball powerhouses and we hope to stay there for a long while," he said.

Despite being tied 70th in the FIBA bwin Ranking Women, South African women’s basketball has shown signs of progression in the past few years.

After all, the country has been a regular home to the Africa camps held as part of the Basketball without Borders (BWB) programme, which last summer included a version for the very best female players under the age of 18 from around the continent.

South Africa is making the most of the experience.

Now, the challenge is even bigger for South Africa, but Toboti is adamant his team will do well.

"We want to be in a game where winning that game takes us to the Semi-Final. That is our aim," he pointed out.

"We don't want to go and be tourists in Cameroon, we want to compete against the best and with the support that the federation in the country has shown towards women basketball, we can achieve that goal."

The qualification for Cameroon 2015 came at the right time, according to Toboti.

Women's basketball is growing steadily in South Africa and the Minister of Sport Fikile Mbalula as well as the national federation have been working around the clock to ensure a national league for women is in place in 2015.

"Women's basketball has always been big at the grassroot level in this country and all that is required is support from upper structures to ensure that women's basketball gets the funding and infrastructure support to ensure maximum exposure," said Toboti.