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Jaguars hunt for first triumph in Netball Premier League

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JOHANNESBURG - With the defending champions, the Free State Crinums, out of the Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League (BFNPL), the pressure is on the Gauteng Jaguars to claim the trophy after finishing second in the past three finals.

It won’t be an easy task for the Jaguars, in spite of losing only one match this season. Firstly, they will have to overcome the Western Cape Stings in the first semi-final at Mangaung Indoor Sports Centre in Bloemfontein on Saturday (tip-off at 4pm).

In the second semi-final, the North West Flames will come up against Gauteng Fireballs at the same venue two hours later. The final will be held on Sunday. 

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Shadine van der Merwe (centre) battles for the ball against Qamisa Jonas (right) of the Eastern Cape Aloes. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

The winner of the tournament will travel to New Zealand to take part in their local league, leaving later this month to play in that country from July 2-7.

Looking ahead to this weekend’s matches, the Jaguars captain reckons the pressure is not on her team only.

“There is pressure on all four teams, because we were not the favourites when the tournament started,” said Shadine van der Merwe, who was talking at the BFNPL captains’ run held in Melrose Arch on Monday.

“The Fireballs were the favourites because they had lots of Proteas players in their team. People say it doesn’t matter who has the best names. At the end of the day, the best team that plays the best together will go through. We’ve got less pressure this year because we’ve started as the new team. The players that get chosen are the players that can pull through for us.”

Van der Merwe further explained the only reason they’ve done well and reached the final for the past three season, was because of consistency.

“It is key. So, I think going into the weekend and analysing the team we play against, is very important. We’ve also been consistent at training. When we get to the training ground, we go hard and make sure to use that time to get on court and just play together as a team, so we don’t struggle during match day.”

“Going to the semi-final for the fourth time is great because that shows consistency from the first year of the Premier League, up until now. I must also compliment our coach, Jenny van Dyk, because of what she is doing. She chooses the players that can win games for her.”

With several Proteas in the Stings, one would’ve thought that it would have been easy for Annelie Lucas’ team to secure a play-off berth.

Not so, explained their captain, Leanie Kleynhans-Counelissen. She said: “With the journey that we had, it is rewarding to be in the semi-final. We are excited, but also nervous. I think it’s going to be great. This is an amazing opportunity for the Stings.”

The Star

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