South Africa is flush with talented young netball players who have shown exceptional technical ability at national trials this week and certainly have what it takes to compete at international level, according to under-21 national team coach Dorette Badenhorst. Speaking on the final day of a four-day long training camp for select young players, Badenhorst, who also coaches the North West Flames in the Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League, said she was highly impressed by the talent on show. During the programme players were put through conditioning exercises; training drills and competitive matches.
South Africa moved up to fifth place on the INF World Rankings in 2015 and Netball South Africa is keen to continue the improvement across all its national teams. Talent identification and development has therefore been prioritised by the federation. Some 80 girls between the ages of 16 and 19 were invited to the Pretoria camp after being identified at various tournaments across the country and 66 attended the training from Tuesday to Friday. The camp was overseen by Badenhorst, who was assisted by Proteas Maryka Holtzhausen, Phumza Maweni, Erin Burger, and Lenise Potgieter as well as NPL goal shooter Dumisani Chauke.
Nadenhorst says: ‘In just four days we have watched how the players have come into their own in terms of understanding what is expected of them to make it to the national setup. The players applied what they were taught and really impressed all of us with not only their performance on the court but also their attitude and desire.’ Another important element that Badenhorst noticed was the flexibility displayed by the players.
She says: ‘Yesterday I moved one player from Goal Keeper to Centre and she did really well in mid court. I’ve never seen such energy before and she surprised us. Usually in training camps, players flock to play in the middle of the court. However this training camp had an unexpected outcome where the majority of the girls preferred the defensive line.’ Despite her optimism, Badenhorst emphasised that the girls still had a long way to go because of their varying netball backgrounds and the high standard of international netball.
For 19-year-old Sigi Burger, who was one of the best newcomers at the NPL this year, the training camp is her opportunity to grow her blossoming reputation. After making the North West Flames NPL team this year, she would love nothing more than representing her country just like the mother who played for the Proteas and her cousin, Springbok star Schalk Burger. She says: ‘I come from a background where sport is taken seriously. My mother played netball for South Africa even when she was six months pregnant with me. That’s how passionate we are about sport.’ 17-year-old Khadijan Dembele from Soweto says that the intensity of training over the four days would help her immensely in her netball career: ‘I learnt a lot from the camp and the Proteas that have been assisting, it’s been an amazing experience apart from the scorching sun.’
Holtzhausen, the Proteas captain, says that coaching the up-and-comers brought back fond memories of her own netball journey: ‘This is where these girls’ netball careers can start. This is where my journey started when I trained really hard for a week trying to impress the coaches. The girls need to seize the moment.’
Photo credit: Christiaan Kotze/SASPA