Johannesburg – While netball in South Africa still awaits the start of the national professional league, 2013 proved to be a great year for the national team as they made significant strides.
The Proteas, coached by Elize Kotze, ended the year ranked sixth on the International Netball Federation's world standings after enduring a rewarding season.
They began their international season by being crowned the African netball champions in June.
The team, which comprised a good mix of youth and experience, beat Malawi 54-52 in extra time after a tense African Championship final in Blantyre, Malawi.
They then fell 3-0 to England in September, when they were invited to take part in a three-Test series in the UK against the world's third-ranked side.
A month later, a recharged team hosted a Tri-Nations netball series against England and Trinidad and Tobago at the NMMU Indoor Sports Centre in Port Elizabeth, where they showed character by defeating England 39-37 in the final, to clinch the series.
The Proteas opened the series with a convincing 47-30 victory against Trinidad and Tobago and then fell 49-39 to England in the following game before their meeting in the final.
A South African invitational team claimed the second annual Diamond Challenge, beating Zimbabwe 59-45 in Port Elizabeth.
While South Africa was without a number of first-choice players for various reasons, the team went unbeaten throughout the series.
Meanwhile, the country's Fast5 team was edged out in the semi-finals of the Fast 5 Netball World Series in New Zealand, after going down to a strong host side.
The team got its campaign off to a good start beating Australia and Malawi, to secure their spot in the semi-finals.
In the inter-provincial competition, Mangaung were crowned winners at the National Championships in Rustenburg, after beating Gauteng North 39-36 in the final.
To cap off a good year, Netball SA’s president Mimi Mthethwa was honoured at the SA Sports Awards, being named the Sports Administrator of the Year.
After re-election in October, Mthetwa said she and her team would prioritise the professionalisation of the sport and its administrative function, as well as improve grass roots development within its regional structure.
The idea of a Netball Premier League was first mooted by sports minister Fikile Mbalula in 2012. – Sapa