A quartet of Varsity Netball alumni are among the first professional South African sports stars to return to action since COVID-19 put sport on hold worldwide in late March.
Karla Pretorius, Shadine van der Merwe, Lenize Potgieter and Ine-Marí Venter will feature for their teams in the delayed 2020 Suncorp Super Netball season, starting on 1 August and centred in the east Australia state of Queensland.
Australia has been one of the first countries to give the go-ahead for the professional leagues to return to action, behind closed doors.
Karla Pretorius, a two-time Varsity Netball champion and Player of the Tournament during her time at Kovsies, will be aiming to help her Sunshine Coast Lightning ‘upgrade’ their 2019 runner-up status this time around. Apart from her Goal Defence-come-Wing Defence play (in front of national teammate Phumza Maweni), the 30-year-old also has leadership duties as the Lightning’s vice-captain so will be pivotal to how the Brisbane-based team goes.
Ine-Marí Venter will be seen in new colours this season, as she has headed east from Melbourne Vixens to Queensland Firebirds. The 25-year-old Goal Shooter-come-Goal Attack made limited appearances for the Vixens, who finished third in 2019. However, the Firebirds finished bottom of the eight-team competition so will expect Venter to bring all her international quality to their attempts to climb the table in 2020
It’s a similar story at Adelaide Thunderbirds, who finished one place above the Firebirds and have retained the versatile Shadine van der Merwe and lured her close friend Lenize Potgieter across the Tasman Sea from the Southern Steel in New Zealand.
The pair who play on opposite ends of the court – Van der Merwe as a Wing Defence or Goal Defence and Potgieter as a Goal Shooter or Goal Attack – obtained special exemptions to re-enter Australia in June having returned to South Africa in late March after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the Super Netball pre-season tournament and postponement of regular season.
Round 1 1 Aug Firebirds (Venter) vs Lightning (Pretorius)
Round 6 23 Aug Lightning (Pretorius) vs Thunderbirds (vd Merwe & Potgieter)
Round 8 30 Aug Firebirds (Venter) vs Thunderbirds (vd Merwe & Potgieter)
Round 9 2 Sept Thunderbirds (vd Merwe & Potgieter) vs Lightning (Pretorius)
Round 11 9 Sept Thunderbirds (vd Merwe & Potgieter) vs Firebirds (Venter)
Round 12 13 Sept Lightning (Pretorius) vs Firebirds (Venter)
By Carlo Jonkerman