TAY LETHULOE

The third edition of the Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League began on 8 April. This season will see ten national teams competing against one another over an eight week period (a change from the previous two-tier group stage) with Pretoria, Johannesburg and Durban hosting. The league has been improving and has been credited with developing players who have the potential to represent their country and compete internationally. The league is currently one of the spotlight fixtures of women’s sport and is one of the few women’s leagues to be televised.

This season will prove to be crucial to players who hope to earn their place in the national team, as international tours such as those against Wales and Jamaica are being announced. Teams have been presented with the opportunity to consult with the national team coach, Norma Plummer, during the league. World Netball Federation president Molly Rhone will also be attending some of the matches during the tournament.

The Jaguars players, who represent Gauteng and missed out in last year’s final, hope to and win the trophy for the first time. “We can do this. We can win, and we will win,” said coach Jenny van Wyk at the Gauteng launch of the Premier League at the High Performance Centre. Van Wyk will be in charge of the Jaguars and UP’s Melissa Kotze will take up the role of captain, with fellow Tukkie Izette Lubbe as her deputy. UP will be well represented as the majority of the team comprises of UP-Tuks players, such as Tshinakaho Mdau, Jeanie Steyn and Dimakatso Mogoale. The squad is packed with international experience with the return Lenize Potgieter and national representatives such as Lindie Lombard and Shadine van der Merwe, who is returning from an injury.

UP players Lenize Potgieter and Shadine van der Merwe shared their thoughts about the season and its role in the development of South African netball.

 

How will this league help your team achieve their hopes of representing SA in the University World Championship and other international matches later this year?

Potgieter: During leagues like this, I see tremendous improvements in all the players’ skills. We become physically and mentally tougher and learn not to be crushed under the pressure we are put under. These improvements help us up our game by trying to outsmart our opponents on court, become mentally stronger than our opponents, and take all the different experiences that we encounter and use them to our advantage for anything that’s thrown at us during a match.

 

How do experienced players benefit the team?

Potgieter: I definitely know that almost all the current Proteas will be playing in the league, and with most of them helping Norma Plummer earlier this year at a coaching camp, they picked up more knowledge and tips on how to perform on court and how to play smart. Also, with myself and Karla Mostert returning from England, I think that we might also bring some new experiences to the players and introduce them to a different type of play.

 

What are you looking forward to most about the season?

Van der Merwe: Personally, I’m looking forward to take to the court again after an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction. Unfortunately I will miss out on the first weekend, but [I will] still get the opportunity to observe and be ready for the weekend after.

Photo: Stefan Stander

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