Varsity Netball provides a platform for youngsters to make it to the highest level. According to the experts, three players from the 2021 tournament can definitely become Proteas.
The 2023 World Cup in South Africa could even be a possibility for Nicholé Taljaard (goal attack), Syntiche Kabuya (goal keeper) and Xandri Fourie (goal attack, above), who impressed immensely during the recent tournament in Stellenbosch.
Taljaard and Kabuya, both from Maties, were among the three nominees for the FNB Player of the Tournament award, which went to Taljaard.
Fourie, a second-year student at Kovsies and first-year student Kabuya played in their first Varsity Netball tournaments. In total, 23 players have played Varsity Netball before making their Proteas debuts.
Former Proteas captain Amanda Mynhardt says Kabuya, who earned three FNB Player of the Match awards, showed great variation on defence.
‘I think she has a lot of potential. It will be interesting to see how she functions in stronger and more experienced defensive combinations,’ adds Mynhardt, a defender in her playing days.
‘Taljaard is so creative and unpredictable, it excites me. It’s been some time since I last saw a player fool defenders like her. She is also accurate and shoots from anywhere in the circle.
‘Danielle van Zyl [Tuks] is another goal attack with speed, fearlessness and unbelievable BMT. Her distribution around the circle and on attack is excellent.’
Simi Mdaka, a former Protea and a SuperSport commentator during the tournament, says Fourie was by far the best goal attack in 2021, and showed resilience and mental toughness in the final.
‘She’s a key playmaker, and has a good understanding of how to use space and navigate the circle, while pulling her defenders apart. She was fearless, held her own and took calculated risks that paid off.
‘Kabuya just needs more time with her coach [Zanele Mdodana] and a focused approach. She’s got raw talent, is athletic and has good hand-eye coordination with great timing. She’s brilliant with the diagonal passes.’
Liezel Wium, another former Proteas captain, also singled out Kabuya’s talent, saying she grabbed her opportunity with both hands when Nicola Smith got injured.
‘Nicola is also a great talent. I think if Taljaard is not going to be picked, an overseas team will soon snatch her.
‘Khanyisa Chawane and Sikholiwe Mdletshe both played an integral role in Kovsies winning the title. Not everyone can handle the pressure, but I believe Nicholé, Nicola, Khanyisa and Sikholiwe can all be in the Proteas team by 2023.
‘But one must remember that the jump from Varsity Netball to international netball is a big one,’ Wium adds.
Vanes-Mari Proudfoot, another former Protea who was behind the microphone for SuperSport, says Kabuya, Taljaard and UJ’s Monica Gomases displayed great potential to challenge current Proteas.
‘Those three really stood out and were consistent, but I would like to see how they fare against senior players. Kabuya is still very young, but under the guidance of [Maties assistant coach and former Proteas goal keeper] Adéle Niemand she can do well in the future.
‘Fourie’s way of play also impressed me hugely,’ adds Proudfoot.
Noluthando Maliehe (Madibaz), Jessica du Plessis (NWU), Alice Kennon (Tuks), Claudia van den Berg (Kovsies) and Elmeré van der Berg (NWU) also caught Proudfoot’s eye.
By Ruan Bruwer
Photos: Kevin Sawyer/Varsity Sports