Gauteng and North West laid down their markers as the teams to beat in the Spar National Netball Championships at the Ugu Sports Centre near Margate on Tuesday, with both teams recording two wins on the second day of the competition. Gauteng coach Jenny Van Dyk, who is without four players who took part in the recent Netball World Cup in Sydney, as well as Melissa Myburgh, who is injured, said she was delighted with the way some of her less experienced players had seized the opportunity to show what they could do. She says: ‘I’ve been trying to give all of them a run. We’re without our Spar Proteas, so we are a bit inexperienced in attack, but they are responding well, and I’m pleased with the way things are going.’
Gauteng beat Eastern Cape 37-19 and Limpopo 29-20, while North West got the better of Western Cape A1 39-20, and Free State 35-32. Their match against Free State was the match of the day. Free State, who are also without their Protea players, including captain Maryka Holtzhausen and defenders Adele Niemand and Karla Mostert, took the early lead, and by half-time, were six goals up, with the score on 20-14.
But North West came storming back into the game, outscoring Free State by 12 goals to six in the third quarter, with the two sides equal on 26 goals. Coach Dorette Badenhorst moved Kefiloe Tsotsetsi from goalkeeper to goalshooter, to replace Sigi Burger, who has just returned from injury and the tall player coped admirably in her new position. The ball moved from end to end in the final quarter, but when the final whistle went, it was North West who came out on top, winning the match by 35 goals to 32. They are now the only unbeaten team.
Free State captain Lauren-Lee Christians said she was disappointed but not downhearted: ‘The end result was not what we wanted, but I’m proud of the way we played. I think we thought we had the game, and we relaxed a bit after half-time, but every game is a learning experience, and we won’t do that again. We’ll take it one game at a time, and at the end of it all, we want to be in that final.’ Christians said she thought the new format of the tournament was providing opportunities for provinces to improve their positions: ‘North West have stepped up to the plate, and they are definitely the team to beat.’
In their earlier match, Free State beat Western Cape A2 by 41 goals to 20. It was a day of missed fortunes for Limpopo, who beat KwaZulu Natal A2 47-23, Northern Cape by 38 goals to 30, but who lost to Gauteng. Mpumalanga won one match and lost two, beating Northern Cape 32-29, but going down to KwaZulu Natal A1 27-23 and to Eastern Cape 38-24. Western Cape A1 made up for their defeat by Free State when they beat KwaZulu Natal A135-28, while Western Cape A2 beat KwaZulu Natal A2 35-27.
Photo credit: Reg Caldecott