The SPAR National Netball championships to be played at the Ugu Sports Centre near Margate, Kwazulu-Natal South Coast next week will have a very different look. Teams will represent provinces rather than regions, as was the case in the past, and the tournament will also combined senior and Under-21 players. Netball South Africa Director of Demarcation and Structures, Mami Diale says: ‘The aim is to raise the standard of play at the tournament, and to ensure that it is all high performance.’
She said they were expecting as many as 42 teams, with provinces like Gauteng sending four senior and four Under-21 teams. This would make the championships the biggest inter provincial competition of any sporting code with close to 1000 players participating. She says: ‘The seniors and Under-21s will play separate competitions, which will be divided into A and B sections. Players who used to compete in the C-section of the tournament will now play in their province until they are good enough to compete at the highest level.’
Diale said the A-section would be like a mini Brutal Fruit competition, with the teams competing on a round robin basis. Successful teams would go through to semifinal and final matches. Most members of the Proteas team, which finished in fifth place at the Netball World Cup in Sydney on Sunday, will not be taking part in the national championships.
They arrived home from Australia on Monday, and apart from being very tired after an intense period of play at a high standard, most of them have to return to work.
The new format means there will definitely be a new champion this year. Gauteng North won the championships last year, beating Dr Kenneth Kaunda (North West South) in the final by 63 goals to 37. The new format means that these two teams will not be present this year.
The annual tournament will be played from Monday 24 August with the final schedule on Saturday morning 29 August. As per tradition, the National Netball championship is played during women’s months and is the official celebration of women’s month by Netball South Africa.