During the last five years, Shadine van der Merwe’s name is one of the first the selectors will write down when they select the UP-Tuks Netball team.
And with good reason. The UP-Tuks captain is a pure class act when it comes to disrupting an opposition team’s well-planned game plan. At times it seems as if she knows what the opposition is going to do even before they decided to pass the ball.
But all good things do come to an end. Monday’s Varsity Netball final against North-West University will be Van der Merwe’s last game for UP-Tuks in this popular tournament because she will be celebrating her 25th birthday in November.
As a netball player, Van der Merwe achieved most of what she set out to do. The one big miss on her playing CV is not winning Varsity Netball as part of a UP-Tuks team. Last year UP-Tuks missed out by one goal, losing to NWU in the final
So there is a good reason why she wants her team to win. It will be a case of ticking off one of the last proverbial boxes on her netball bucket list.
From a statistical perspective, North-West University must be the favourites. It is their fourth final in five years. The team from Potchefstroom was victorious in 2015 and 2106. In 2013 they lost to Kovsies.
Tuks lost in 2014 to Kovsies and 2016 to NWU, so the question is whether it is going to be third time lucky?
Van der Merwe believes that she and her teammates have the makings to make local netball history.
“Playing Pukke is never easy as they are one of the most consistent teams in the competition, never really playing a lousy game. They are also very unpredictable being prepared to take risks even if it does not always pay-off.
“Our challenge will be to stay true to our game plan because if we do who knows what might happen?”
Van der Merwe does not see the fact that they have never won a Varsity Netball final as “having a monkey on their back”. She counters by saying that it took the Jaguars four years to win the Brutal Fruit Series.
“Our coach, Jenny van Dyk, is the ‘forever-student’ of netball who takes something positive from each game. It is her never-say-die attitude, and an endless quest for perfection that led to us winning the Brutal Fruit Series this year. During the past few days, we’ve analysed the way Pukke plays while deciding on our game plan.”
The way Van der Merwe and Jasmine Ziegelmeier (goalkeeper) combine on defence to counter the opposition’s attack has been an integral part of the UP-Tuks success so far.
“I like playing with Jasmine as I know during critical moments of any game she has my back and vice versa. If one of us should be caught off-guard, the other is there to cover.”
Van der Merwe is someone who relishes a sports challenge. That is why after Monday’s final she will be on her bike cycling, as she is planning to do the 94.7 Cycle Race on 19 November.
Up to now, she had no time to do any serious cycling training. But that does not faze her as according to her, she still has 41 days to train for the race.