Netball South Africa (NSA) on Monday announced an expanded Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League as another step towards its overall objective of the sport becoming professional in this country. The 2016 Netball Premier League will be played in the three cities of Pretoria, Johannesburg and Durban. The league, now in its third year, begins on Friday 8 April with the first match between defending champions the Free State Crinums against the Gauteng Jaguars at the Heartfelt Arena in Pretoria.
The league will feature 10 teams from all nine provinces competing in an intense eight-week Round Robin competition. From 8 April to 24 April all fixtures will be played at the Heartfelt Arena in Pretoria. From 29 April to 15 May the league will move to the Ellis Park Indoor Arena in Johannesburg, and from 20 May the league shifts to the Olive Convention Centre in Durban, where the final will also be played on 29 May.
NSA president Mimi Mthethwa says: ‘This is the third year of the Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League and we are fast on track to netball being a professional sport. What is pleasing is that it’s not only our dream as Netball South Africa to see the sport become professional in this country but our sponsors have also said they see themselves as partners in this dream. This expanded Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League is the first step towards that goal, and it’s a big step.’
The expanded league is in line with NSA’s vision to create more playing opportunities for the country’s netballers and so strengthen the pool of players available for selection for the national team, the Proteas. As part of their international schedule in 2016, the Spar Proteas will be taking part in a new International Netball Super Series including Australia, New Zealand and England to be played in August in both Australia and New Zealand. Mthethwa say: ‘We depend on the Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League to give our players the platform where they can compete at a high intensity, and we are looking forward to using the league to select the best players the country has for our Spar Proteas. I think this is indeed the year of possibilities for netball in South Africa, and I believe any sponsors who have interest in supporting us can see that we mean business and are working hard to make sure that we improve the sport in this country.’
Proteas player Bongi Msomi, who attended Monday’s launch, believes the expanded league is another positive step for the sport in South Africa. She says: ‘We need more game time here, and this is a positive step to achieving that. That’s what our players need. The English league is four to five months of really intense netball. I think we’re on the right track here and we just need to keep growing it.’