Cape Town - The tragic bus accident which claimed four lives in the Eastern Cape town of Aberdeen will sadly be a focal point on the 2021 calendar year of national netball.
The accident, early in December, occurred on the eve of the Spar National Netball Championships in Bellville, Cape Town. A bus carrying two teams from the OR Tambo District was involved in an accident that claimed the lives of three netball players and an official. They were Nocamagu Mvunyiswa (coach), Phelo Charles, Indiphile Mfengu and Thabisile Maxikika.
On the opening day of the nationals, Netball South Africa (NSA) held a candlelight ceremony led by Netball SA president Cecilia Molokwane. The ceremony was attended by all the teams, including Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal government officials, as well as the Spar Proteas.
Netball's observable moment of the year:
After discussion among all stakeholders, it was decided that the nationals would continue even while the netball fraternity were in mourning. Cape Winelands were crowned the 2021 Spar National Netball Champions. They beat Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB) 66-54 in the final, to bring the title back to the Western Cape for the first time since 2016.
The defending champions, Tshwane, who won four years in succession, had to withdraw from the championships at the 11th hour when members of their team contracted Covid-19.
Main feature of Netball SA's year:
The who's who of World Netball would have been in Cape Town in June when the 2023 NWC (Netball World Cup) Board officially unveiled the logo for the 2023 Netball World Cup (NWC). As a result of the novel coronavirus, World Netball's bigwigs could not attend. However, they joined the ceremony on the video conferencing platform Zoom.
South Africa won the bid to host the 2023 Netball World Cup (NWC) in Cape Town back in 2019. The World Cup will be played at the Cape Town International Convention Centre in the heart of iconic Cape Town.
Netball SA's finest UK tour moment:
With the eye on the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, the national team were scheduled to tour Britain and later Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, both top-10 world-ranked countries.
The tour of Britain saw the Proteas take on teams from Wales, Scotland and Ireland. After five matches, the Proteas' 16-member squad, which included four uncapped players, were undefeated. In two matches, the winning totals passed the 100-goal mark.
Proteas coach Dorette Badenhorst was pleased with the way new combinations proved to be effective.
“Wales were tough competitors against us," said Badenhorst. "We combined well on the attacking side as well with different combinations that I tried. I think we stayed clinical throughout.”
“With every game, it was important to look at different combinations, to see the new players coming on and make a difference.
"I think for a coach, that is a good headache to have, to see that there is a lot of players that can come on the court and make a difference.
"We saw a lot of improvement from the first time we got some of these players and I’m excited about the players coming through. I think there’s good stuff happening on and off the court.”
The Proteas were scheduled to play in the Margaret Beckford Sunshine Series against hosts Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean in October. However, the tour was cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions. Netball SA made the most of an unfortunate situation and managed to secure the UK tour instead.
Molokwane said game time was important for the national team and hence the UK tour was hastily arranged.
“We were disappointed with the cancellation of the tour," said Molokwane. "The players worked hard to prepare for the Test series against Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.
"However, saving lives comes first. We had to understand the situation in Jamaica and accept the decision. We could not fold our arms and let the preparations and hard work go to waste.
"We entered into negotiations with the other countries to make sure that our girls get the much-needed game time.”
Netball's Out of Africa moment:
In November the Spar Proteas returned home with the Africa Netball Cup championship title under their belts after signing off the final day's play with an overwhelming 65–39 win over hosts Namibia in Windhoek.
South Africa have yet to lose a match in this Africa Netball Cup tournament since 2019. The other countries completing there were Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Proteas assistant coach Dumisani Chauke said it was pleasing that many of the fringe players in the squad held their own against the cream of African netball.
"We knew that Namibia would give us a run for our money. We understood that they will bring their A-game here and we needed to be ready for that," said Proteas assistant coach Dumisani Chauke.
"I am proud of how the girls rallied together and made sure that they deliver for the team.
"Whoever we put in understood what the assignment was, regardless of where you come from the KPI's (key performance indicators) do not change. We needed to make sure that we deliver."
Netball SA's New Year moment in the offing:
Now that the United Kingdom removed South Africa from its 'red list' of travel restrictions, the Proteas will be winging their way to London in mid-January for the Quad Series. Hosts England (3 world-ranked), Australia (1) and New Zealand (2) are the other three nations.
For South Africa (5), this event will serve as preparation for the 2022 Commonwealth Games starting in July.
The Proteas' Quad Series squad has been named and that means there will be little time for festivities over Christmas because team management will want to hit the ground running before the departure.
Proteas squad, shooters: Sigrid Burger, Ine-Mari Venter, Lefebre Rademan, Elmere van der Berg, Jessica du Plessis
Midcourt: Khanyisa Chawane, Izette Griesel, Tshinakaho Mdau, Bongiwe Msomi (captain)
Defence: Simone Rabie, Monique Reyneke, Phumza Maweni, Nicola Smith, Zanele Vimbela
Finally, numerous events like Brutal Fruit Netball Cup, Varsity Cup, Spar Challenge, USSA tournaments, Telkom Netball League and the ClemenGold District Netball League all ensure that national netball's heartbeat keeps ticking all year round.