Maties began the hunt for their first Varsity Netball title with three emphatic wins in the first bumper weekend of action of the 2022 campaign.
The team from Stellenbosch has been beaten in the final three times – in 2015 against NWU, in 2019 against Tuks and last year against Kovsies. This weekend, they got their revenge against Kovsies (57-53) and Tuks (57-55) in Pretoria. On Monday (26 September) the Maroon Machine take on NWU in Potchefstroom with the chance to get back at the Eagles.
Nichole Taljaard’s stellar attacking play for Maties has been crucial in the three victories so far that have put them together with NWU at the top of the 2022 Varsity Netball log on 15 points.
Varsity Sports chatted to the 25-year-old Taljaard on her unstoppable rise through the netball ranks in South Africa right into the national team, starting back at Hoërskool Stellenberg in Durbanville, Cape Town.
On getting a sudden call-up to join the squad for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham:
“I made the squad of 24 players and then I attended all the training camps and made the 15-player squad for the Wales series in preparation for the Commonwealth Games. To me, it happened so fast and even though I didn’t make the 12, I felt so happy to be in the setup which is 10 times harder and faster.
“Then there was an unfortunate incident where Lenize Potgieter couldn’t play due to a knee injury. I was then called up two days before the Commonwealth Games. I did not believe it, I had even packed a different bag thinking I was going on a holiday after the Wales series.
“I didn’t think I was going get game time, we were playing against international players that play at the highest level. I was just so happy to be in the environment.”
On Cape Town hosting the 2023 Netball World Cup:
“It’s really exciting and emotional, there is a big clock counting down. We are busy doing a documentary where we are walking down memory lane of everyone in the squad, and their journey up to where we are.
“I saw a netball advert on television and I thought, wow, who would’ve thought netball being broadcast on TV and having ads. We are used to seeing only rugby and soccer. Netball has grown so much and now we can see more female sport more on TV.
“With the World Cup that is coming next year, you get to see how hard all the players have worked to get where we are. You get to see the sacrifices everyone has made.”
On the influence of former Protea Erin Burger on her career:
“My family played a big role in my life and my netball career, but Erin Burger is someone who shaped me. I remember we were playing TNL in 2016 and I was sitting on the bench, and she looked at the coach and said, ‘You need to put Nichole on’. Throughout the game, scores were even until the third quarter, and she again said to the coach ‘If you don’t put Nichole on, we are going to lose this game. I looked at her and I was scared, I was only 18 years old.
“The amount of trust she had in me and how she wanted me to do the best I could. She always puts in extra effort and I always tell myself, you can do it. It has been an amazing journey to have her as a role model, teammate and as coach.”
On being part of Maties with Zanele Mdodana as coach:
“We have a strong bond and a team that believes in unity on the court. We have the most passionate coach, we would go all the way for her. She has so much trust in us and whatever she wants us to do on the court, we do it. She always reminds us that nothing is going to come easy, we have to fight for it.”
By Lehlogonolo Ditshego