The Spar Netball Championships begin at the Ugu Sports Centre near Margate on Monday, with a new format for the premier provincial competition in the country. On the back of the Netball World Cup in Sydney two weeks ago, Netball South Africa (NSA) has streamlined the national championships to ensure more elite players participate at this level. The country’s various netball regions have now been pooled together within their provinces, with NSA allocating to each province the number of teams it must field at A, B and Under-21 level at the Netball Championships. Mami Diale, NSA’s Director of Demarcation and Structures, says: ‘We believe that there must not be development at a national level. This must take place at a provincial level, so that when it comes to a national level we have the elite players competing to ensure that we raise the standard of the championships. There will be two competitions running at the Spar Netball Championships. There will be the senior competition in the A and B divisions, and then the under-21 competition. We have done away with the C Division as this will now be played at a provincial level, which is where the development will take place.’
Gauteng North won the title last year but return this year as a new combined Gauteng team. Coach Jenny Van Dyk says while the new format is undeniably good for the overall improvement of netball in South Africa and it has presented her with a challenge as a coach: ‘We have a whole lot of new faces in the squad. In fact, we only have three players from the Gauteng North team of last year, of which only one actually started in the final. So it’s a challenge as a coach. But it’s also good because I’m excited to see what the new players are capable of at this level. Looking to the future it can only be good for our netball as a whole because it will raise the standard of our players. As coaches and as players, the Spar Netball Championships is close to our hearts and we want to see the best players competing here.’
The majority of the Proteas players who finished fifth at the recent Netball World Cup in Sydney will not be participating at these championships as they are being rested following a demanding international schedule of late.
Photo credit: Reg Caldecott