JOHANNESBURG - With so many changes happening in South African netball, few would be aware there is a new sheriff in town. Cecilia Molokwane, president of Netball South Africa (NSA), wants to take netball forward and for her to achieve that she has to start at grassroots level.
The 2018 Spar National Netball Championships started on Monday at the Lotto Young Park netball courts and notable changes were evident. For one, team no longer played as provinces but rather as districts as a way to have access to future Spar Proteas stars.
“We thought of taking netball back to the people. If we want to find another Bongi Msomi or Shadine van der Merwe, we need to go down there and get them. We cannot get them at provincial level but we must go to the grassroots to get them. We can only do that by working with our districts that are coming here,” said Molokwane. "We are grateful to have 87 teams that have confirmed to be participating in this tournament. This is the biggest tournament that Netball South Africa has hosted with so many teams and districts."
Molokwane said the decision to change the Championships format was taken in March and everyone welcomed it. Molokwane added that NSA has been hungry to have more people showing interest in netball, especially with South Africa bidding to host the 2023 World Cup.
“It’s now in the open that we are bidding and we are bidding against New Zealand who will be celebrating their centenary that year ... That doesn’t make us fearful. This is African’s time. It will be for the first time we host (if they win) such a big tournament," she added. "It will also be the first time in the history of South Africa that we have a female sport host such a big tournament.”
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Gauteng A, who are the defending champions, will play as Tshwane Distric in this week’s tournament. The defending champions' coach Jenny van Dyk said she is looking forward to the new tournament.
“This is a new tournament, a new team and a new opportunity for us to develop our players and to give them much needed match time. We didn’t come here to come second, so we will definitely play our best,” said van Dyk, who won the Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League recently.