Young softball star living her dream

Nandipha Gxathwana wishes to get a softball scholarship after matric and study abroad.

A Khayelitsha softball star wants to leave a lasting legacy by campaigning for more girls to play the sport which has changed her life.

Nandipha Gxathwane, 18, from Makhaza, started her softball career nine years ago when she chose not to join the more popular sports for girls at Masiphumelele Primary School, such as netball, and try the one sport she knew very little about.

At the time it was just a way to keep active and not much thought went into how far the game could take her.

Travelling the world had never crossed her mind but she has since had an extraordinary journey and has been part of the national team for four years now.

She got her national colours for the first time when she made the under-18 side that travelled to the USA in 2017 for the Softball World Cup.

Her form for the under-18s saw her getting a call-up to the senior side in 2018 and she has been a key member of both the junior and the senior teams ever since.

The Grade 10 pupil at Western Cape Sport School has had an especially eventful 2019 as she jetted off to the World Series in Netherlands for the senior side and upon her return joined the under-19 side for her second world cup in the SA junior team in the USA.

“I never expected any of this, when I got my first call-up it was an emotional moment because I didn’t feel like I had done enough. But it was the support that I had around that kept telling me to have fate and they felt I deserved to be part of the team because of the way I was playing.

“I never thought I would have a chance to represent my country and travel the world when I started.

“My second world cup was an amazing moment because I feel we played better than my first world cup and even though we lost we managed to compete against top teams like Japan.

“Even if we went to the second innings on the backfoot, this time around we never admitted defeat until the last ball of the game,” she said.

She returned from the world cup towards the end of last month, having taken part in five games for the country.

South Africa’s only win at the world cup was against Botswana.

The 8-7 victory ensured that Nandipha and her national teammates finished above the neighbouring country in the final standing, in 15th place out of 16 countries.

Nandipha is currently a member of Khayelitsha Eagles in the Western Cape Softball Association second division.

“I just wanted to try the one sport where not many people were paying attention and I just loved the game. Now that I have made it this far I wish there could be more teams in our area that will open opportunities other youngsters.”

Although she still has a long way to go in the game, Nandipha says she would like to see her success rub off on other young girls.

She says the game has changed her life and seeing others do well would make her happy.

Even though she has not made up her mind about which team would best suit her abilities, she wants to make a move up to the Super League division.

But for that she would have to travel further from home as there are no teams in that division close to her area.

Besides representing the country on numerous occasions, one thing she still wants to cross off her bucket list is getting a softball scholarship to study abroad after completing her matric.

She wants to study sport management as she says sport is the only thing that keeps her going and she wants to remain part of the game for a long time.