In an absolutely thrilling final in Bloemfontein on Monday night, the home side, UFS Kovsies, stunned and outplayed defending champions, UP Tuks, to win the 2018 Varsity Netball tournament 63-59.
The final got off to an exhilarating start with newlywed, Tanya von Berg (formerly Mostert), taking the first centre pass which was converted by none other than superstar Lefébre Rademan. This was followed by another two consecutive goals by the home side thanks to an interception by Khomotso Mamburu (2017 Player of the Tournament). This was shortly followed by an interception by the Tuks captain, Tshina Mdau.
The Kovsies shooters, Rademan and Alicia Puren, and their attacking players Khanyisa Chawane (WA) and von Berg (C) did well to not force the ball to the goal post. Needless to say, their patience and the exceptional athleticism shown by Chawane, paid off. The visitors played just as well with interceptions coming from Jeanette Vermeulen and Akosua Mensah, the rest of the team working well to capitalize on the Kovsies’ mistakes and the shooters converting the teams effort. The home side, however, were on fire in terms of defence with multiple interceptions coming from Mamburu and Sne Mdletshe, ending the first quarter 19 goals to 15.
Tuks immediately placed Kovsies under pressure in the second quarter, leading to a three-second held ball call, which was converted by Ine-Mari Venter and it was then the visitors turn to score a few consecutive goals levelling the scores at 19 all. In this quarter, interceptions came from Mdletshe and Ané Retief, as well as Puren! In the meantime, Tuks did well to convert their centre passes with well flowing play. Venter got the crowd on the edge of their seats with a fancy basketball shot, which she unfortunately was not able to convert to a goal. However, Captain Fantastic, Alicia Puren, perfectly executed a similar shot shortly after. By the end of the first half, Tuks managed to close the gap slightly trailing by 28 goals to the Kovsies’ 30.
The start of the second half saw some changes on both sides as Rieze Straeuli came on at wing attack, moving Chawane to centre. For the Tuks side, Venter was moved to goal attack making place for Venetia Grobler at goal shooter. Kovsies drew first blood, but Tuks came back strong evening out the scores and taking the lead for the first time in the game with two goals. Five minutes into the half the first power play was called in which both sides scored a double pointer each. With an interception from Mamburu, Kovsies managed to even the scores. This was shortly followed by changes in the Kovsies camp. Von Berg came back on at wing defence, Mdletshe moved to centre and Chawane to wing attack. The third quarter also saw Marlize de Bruin getting a few strict words from the umpire.
Kovsies ended the third quarter with a narrow one-goal lead as the scores stood at 42-41.
The final quarter was nail-biting for both sides. It was first the visitors that made the home crowd quiet as they flew into a five-goal lead with stern words for the Kovsies defence from the umpires. The home side just was by no means ready to throw in the towel as they almost immediately stuck back and levelled the scores at 50 goals apiece. At this point, with 7 minutes left to play, the second power play was called and with a very enthusiastic home crowd behind them, Kovsies scored four double pointers to the Tuks’ two taking the scores to 58-54.
From the last goal of the power play it was all Kovsies as they drew energy from the crowd for the last 5 minutes. With nothing but exceptional skill and passion, the UFS Kovsies took off to a four-goal lead to win their first final on home soil, 63 goals to 59.
Wimpy Moment Maker: Sne Mdletshe (Kovsies)
Samsung Shot of the Match: Ine-Mari Venter (Tuks)
FNB Player of the Match: Lefébre Rademan (Kovsies)
FNB Player of the Tournament: Khanyisa Chawane (Kovsies)
Players’ Player of the Tournament: Marlize de Bruin (Tuks)
By Mary Gordon