The seventh season of Varsity Netball, which gets underway on Monday, 26 August, could begin the ‘Road to 2023’ for the next generation of Proteas.
Varsity Netball is the breeding ground – and ‘finishing school’, if you like – of South Africa’s next netball stars. That much is evident from the fact that 10 members of the Proteas squad which finished fourth at the recent Netball World are alumni of the tournament. It’s thus fair to say that the road to the 2023 Netball World Cup, which will take place in Cape Town, will start at Varsity Netball 2019.
As it happens, some Proteas are still eligible to play and will add star quality to the fixtures set for Madibaz Indoor Centre (Port Elizabeth), Coetzenburg Indoor Centre (Stellenbosch), Callie Human Centre (Bloemfontein) and Rembrandt Hall (Pretoria) – the four hosting venues for this year’s tournament.
Chief among the possible returnees is Khanyisa Chawane, the 2018 Varsity Netball Player of the Tournament, who will be ever-present at all the 31 games. That is because the Kovsies Wing Defence, only 23 years old, will have her name printed on all the match balls in use. Sigrid ‘Sigi’ Burger could also be in action, for the fifth time, as she attempts to shoot the goals which help NWU to a third title – to match defending champions Kovsies.
Perhaps the biggest feather in the cap of Varsity Netball is that Karla Pretorius, player of the tournament in 2014 and 2015, claimed the same award at the Netball World Cup in Liverpool. The 29-year-old, who played for Kovsies between 2013-15, was imperious at Goal Defence. Interestingly, she roomed with Erin Burger during the tournament who herself claimed the tournament’s top honour at the 2011 edition in Singapore. Burger, despite being older than the eligible age of 25 when Varsity Netball started in 2013, is involved in the tournament as an assistant coach at UP-Tuks.
Shadine van der Merwe was another former Varsity Netball Player of the Tournament who ‘showed her colours’ in Liverpool with the Proteas. The UP-Tuks graduate, who claimed the award in her fifth and final season in 2017, competed fiercely with Chawane for the starting Wing Defence berth.
Further Varsity Netball graduates to the Proteas, who will be keen observers of how well their alma mater do in 2019, are star Goal Shooter Lenize Potgieter (UJ 2013-16), both Goal Attacks Maryka Holtzhausen (Kovsies 2013, then assistant coach 2014-15) and Renske Stoltz (UP-Tuks 2013, NWU 2015-16), as well as Izette Griesel (UP-Tuks 2013-14) and Zanele Vimbela (Madibaz 2013-14)
Considering two of Kovsies, UP-Tuks and NWU have reached all six finals (apart from 2015 when Maties hosted winners NWU), they will undoubtedly start as favourites to #showtheircolours again in 2019.
Trying to unseat them will be the aforementioned Maties, UJ, UWC and TUT. TUT are the only new team for 2019, taking the place of VUT, having last played in the inaugural tournament back in 2013.
Their qualification means the Cape derby between Maties and UWC (which will take place on 15 September during the bumper weekend hosted by UP-Tuks) will be joined by a Tshwane derby between UP-Tuks and TUT – on 23 September in the last round of action before the semi-finals.
By that stage it will be clear which players are making their push for Varsity Netball honours and, ultimately, higher ones too.
Tickets for the Varsity Netball 2019 tournament will go on sale the week before the tournament begins. If you use the Varsity Sports App, downloadable from the App Store on iOS devices or from the Google Play store for Android users then you’ll be able to purchase tickets for only R10.