A Varsity netball final is not only a big deal for the players, coaches and supporting staff.
It is also a huge accolade for the umpires. Marielouw van der Merwe of Paarl and Janet Edeling of East London will have the whistles in their hands in Monday night’s final between Tuks and the NWU in Pretoria.
Both are international accredited umpires and it is a huge feather in the cap of Varsity Netball that they have the best umpires at their disposal. Van der Merwe will officiate her fourth final.
“In 2015 I was unavailable because I was on duty overseas,” said Van der Merwe.
She was also an umpire for the Brutal Fruit Premier League earlier this season, which is the top competition on Netball South Africa’s calendar.
“I was an umpire in the Quad series in the beginning of the year, both here and overseas, as well as the World Youth Championships in Botswana,” said Van der Merwe. “I was invited to the Taini Jamison Trophy between New Zealand and England in September, but had to pull out due to a hamstring injury.”
Van der Merwe will once again be on international duty next month when England take on Malawi in England.
The big tournament that awaits in April 2018 is the Commonwealth Games, the pinnacle for most players’s career. Van der Merwe and Theresa Prince were already appointed for this big tournament.
The standard of the top teams in Varsity Netball 2017 is very high, said Van der Merwe.
“You could never beforehand predict a run-away victory for one team.
“I was very impressed by UWC’s debut. They have been a good addition to the series. Everyone was a bit disappointed by Maties’ performance in the semi-final against Tuks. I thought the game would have been closer.
“The Pukke and Tuks were well deserved winners of the semi-finals.”
Van der Merwe said the music and power play makes Varsity Netball an exciting competition.
“We have to play advantage as long as possible during a power play period. The game must be allowed to flow. If there is an injury, the player must come to the sideline and immediately be replaced.
“Play can only be halted for a serious mistake or injury,” said Van der Merwe. Like the players, the umpires get used to the loud music and the noise of Varsity Netball.
“Once the music was so loud, I thought I was having a panic attack. But eventually you learn to cut out the crowd and the music. But that tune during the power play, that is another story, it stays in your head.”
*Van der Merwe, Edeling, Prince, Anso Kemp and Elizna van den Berg are South Africa’s international accredited umpires.