RENEWED OPTIMISM AHEAD OF NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS

South Africa - There is a new spirit of optimism in the South African netball community after South Africa’s good showing at the recent World Netball Championships in Singapore.

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula promised Netball South Africa (NSA) that he would make the promotion of netball a priority in his department and presidential spokesman Jimmy Manyi said the government would do all it could to assist the most popular women’s sport in South Africa.

That feeling of optimism is likely to infuse the SPAR National Netball Championships at the Bellville Velodrome in the Western Cape from August 7 to 13. Teams from 42 regions will be taking part in the tournament, which will be divided into A, B and C sections, with the top teams vying for the title of national champions.

The women’s A-section includes defending champions Gauteng North, runners-up Free State Motheo and teams such as Boland, Western Province, Nelson Mandela Bay, North West South and Gauteng Central.

The standard of play at the national championships in Potchefstroom last year was high and NSA President Mimi Mthethwa says it should be even higher this year. “There has been a considerable improvement in the level of play across the country, as a result of the Netball Grand Series (NGS) which was launched earlier this year,” she said. “The NGS has provided a platform for players of all ages to be involved in tough competition on a regular basis. We saw evidence of this at the recent Under19 and Under21 championships in Rustenburg, as well as in the performance of NGS players who took part in the world championships,” said Mthethwa.

She said more and more government officials were taking note of netball and the support from Minister Mbalula and spokesman Manyi was very heartening.“We as netball are now expected to raise the bar whenever we stage our activities because of the support we receive from the Minister of Sport and his staff. He always puts aside his major commitments to be with the national team; he hosted a dinner for the team in Singapore and this really boosted the morale of the players. We also express our sincerest and humble gratitude to the President Zuma for taking his time to wish the team well.”

As always, the national champs take place during national women’s month, and there will be ceremonies marking National Women’s Day on August 9. “As South Africa’s most played women’s sport, it is fitting that the SPAR National Netball Championships should take place at this time,” said Mthethwa.

SPAR Group Marketing Executive Mike Prentice wished the players well for the tournament. “Netball is our flagship sponsorship. We are very proud to be associated with the national team and we are equally very proud of our involvement in the national champs” he said. “We are very pleased to be associated with a sport that knows no boundaries and reaches into every part of South Africa,” said Prentice.


SOUTH AFRICA TO PLAY CROATIA AT 2011 DAVIS CUP WORLD GROUP PLAY-OFFS

London - The draw for the 2011 Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-offs, which will take place the same weekend as the World Group semifinals on 16-18 September, was held today at the International Tennis Federation’s headquarters in London.

South Africa will play against seeds Croatia at home in what is billed as a “favourable” draw by South African Davis Cup Captain, John Laffnie De Jager.

The winning nations in the World Group play-offs qualify for the 2012 World Group, while the losing nations will compete in their respective Zone Group I competitions in 2012.

This will be the first meeting between South Africa and Croatia.

Croatia boast two players in the top 100 of the world namely Marin Cilic (32) and Ivan Dodig (42) . Rising star on the professional circuit Ivo Karlovic (129) is also part of the Croatian squad.

In their last Tie Croatia slipped to a narrow 3-2 defeat at the hands of Germany in the World Group first round in Zagreb.

Croatia became the first unseeded nation to win the Davis Cup title, when it defeated Slovak Republic 3-2 in the 2005 Final in Bratislava. Prior to 1992, Croatian players represented Yugoslavia

South Africa qualified for the September play-off with a convincing 3-1 defeat of The Netherlands at the University of Potchefstroom last weekend.

John Laffnie De Jager said to draw Croatia was favourable. “At this stage every country is tough and promises to field its best possible team to have the best possible chance of being part of the World Group in 2012. Croatia are a challenge and they won the title only six years ago, but, with us playing at home we have the advantage and with Kevin Anderson indicating his availability we should be at full strength so we certainly are in with a big chance.”

Seeds for the draw were based on the latest ITF Davis Cup Nations Ranking of 11 July.

The draw is as follows:

2011 World Group play-offs

Romania v Czech Republic (s)

Russia (s) (*) v Brazil

Israel (s) (*) v Canada

South Africa (*) v Croatia (s)

Chile (s) v Italy

Japan v India (s)

Belgium v Austria (s)

Australia v Switzerland (s)

Nations with choice of ground are listed first

(s) denotes seeded nation

(*) denotes choice of ground determined by lot


SPAR PROTEAS TAKE SOME TIME OFF

Singapore – After three days of intense matches the SPAR Proteas took some time off and hit the streets of Chinatown. Accompanied by team management, sponsors, family and fans, the South African team wandered Chinatown shopping and admiring the cultural architecture. Proteas coach Elize Kotze said it was important that they take some time off, but that the team could only have the morning to explore before they were to rest their bodies ahead of tomorrow’s big match against New Zealand in the quarterfinals.


Results from the Euro/Africa Group 1 Davis Cup Tie South Africa vs The Netherlands, Day 3, played at

Potchefstroom, South Africa
Singles (SA names first)
2-Rik De Voest lost to 1-Robin Haase 7-6(5) 3-6 0-6 4-6
1-Kevin Anderson beat 2-Thomas Schoorel 6-7(5) 6-4 7-6(4) 6-1
1-Kevin Anderson beat 1-Robin Haase 6-3 3-6 6-2 6-2
2-Rik De Voest vs 2-Thomas Schoorel not played
Doubles (SA names first)
Kevin Anderson/Rik De Voest beat Robin Haase/Jesse Huta Galung 6-7(4) 6-2 6-4 6-4
South Africa beat The Netherlands 3-1


SOUTH AFRICA TOP IN AFRICA

Singapore - The SPAR South African netball team claimed fifth place at the World Netball Championships at the Singapore Indoor Stadium with a thrilling 52-50 victory over Malawi on Sunday.

Malawi have long been South Africa’s nemesis, beating them at the last World Championships and the last two Commonwealth Games, and Sunday’s victory means that South Africa are once again the number one team in Africa, and more importantly, have the Malawi monkey off their backs.

Malawi came out hard, and were first to score. They dominated most of the first quarter, and were 15-10 ahead at the break. Shortly before the end of the quarter, Captain Amanda Mynhardt fell heavily, and had to leave the court, necessitating a number of positional changes, with Zukelwa Cwaba making her debut for South Africa.

South Africa came back strongly in the second quarter, leveling the score at 24-all with two minutes to go to halftime. They outscored Malawi 18-11 in the quarter, largely because they were able to keep the ball out of the Malawi circle. The Malawi goal shooters, Mwayi Kumwenda and Sindi Simtowe, were so accurate that they scored virtually every time they got the ball in their D. Kumwenda had 100 per cent accuracy throughout the match, and Simtowe missed just one attempt.

At halftime, the SPAR Proteas had a narrow 28-26 lead. They pulled away in the third quarter to extend the lead to a 10-goal difference, but in the final quarter Malawi, who had brought on some fresh legs in the central positions, began to catch up, and at one stage were only one goal behind. Goal shooter Chrisna Bootha, who had an indifferent tournament, gained in confidence as the match continued, and goal attack Claudia Basson also showed her class. Centre Erin Burger had an outstanding game, and was named player of the match. She was responsible for a number of critical intercepts, and she kept the ball moving in the right direction.

Head coach Elize Kotze, who took over as part of the coaching panel just six months ago, was ecstatic about the victory. “I’m overwhelmed with joy,” she said. “We’ve finally got this Malawi thing off our backs. We’re once again the top African team, and finishing fifth means we have qualified for the next World Championships. So we don’t need to worry about qualifying tournaments, but can concentrate on playing the top teams.” She said the victory was also important for the game in South Africa, as it would put netball back on the map.

Vice-captain Zanele Mdodana said she believed the tough match against Northern Ireland on Saturday had given South Africa the edge they needed to beat Malawi. “We’re the African champions now, and anything is possible from here,” she said.

Mynhardt agreed, saying it was important for the team to stay together, and to build on their success for the future. “I’m so proud of the girls,” she said. “We’ve all made sacrifices to be here, and now it has all proved worthwhile.”

Attached images
Sa vs malawi.3.jpg
SPAR Proteas goal shooter Chrisna Bootha reaches for the ball in the tight match against Malawi at the World Netball Champs.
Sa vs Malawi.4.jpg
Player of the match Erin Burger (centre) in action in the match for 5th place at the World Netball Champs in Singapore.
Sa vs Malawi.5.jpg
A jubilant and celebratory SA team after the final whistle was blown.


BURGER PLAYER OF THE TOURNAMENT

South Africa’s Erin Burger finished the World Netball Championships on a high on Sunday when she was named Player of the Tournament.
“I’m over the moon,” said Burger. “It was really unexpected. I don’t have words to express how proud I am.”

Burger saıd she felt South Afrıca had dıstınguıshed themselves at the tournament, where they fınıshed ın fıfth place. “If we can do thıs after sıx months, ımagıne what we can achıeve after four years.”


SOUTH AFRICA BEAT NORTHERN IRELAND IN SCRAPPY MATCH

Singapore - South Africa beat Northern Ireland 46-41 in their play-off at the World Netball Championships at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Saturday, to earn the right to play Malawi for fifth position on Sunday.

The SPAR South African team appeared to be feeling the after-effects of their tough quarterfinal against New Zealand, and were far from the world beaters they aim to be. They came out firing, and went into an early four goal lead, before Northern Ireland fought back strongly, with a succession of goals. The Proteas, unable to play the way they wanted to, started to panic and made a number of unforced errors. At the end of the quarter, Northern Ireland led 12-10.

Head coach Elize Kotze started with some of her less experienced players to give some of her team a chance to rest, but she had to make several changes after the first quarter. Claudia Basson, South Africa’s most accurate shooter, came on for Tsakane Mbewe, Erin Burger moved to wing attack, and Thuli Qegu came on for Bongi Msome. The presence of more experienced players calmed things down a bit and South Africa outscored Northern Ireland by 13 goals to nine to lead 23-21, although the Irish team scored six goals in quick succession to close the gap, after trailing 22-15.

The two teams exchanged goal for goal in the third quarter, and South Africa had a narrow three goal lead, at 34-31, going into the final 15 minutes. The SPAR Proteas managed to keep Northern Ireland at bay, but the small contingent of vociferous South African fans – who had starting singing “Shosholoza” in an attempt to encourage the team – breathed a collective sigh of relief when the final whistle went, and South Africa had won.

“I’m just pleased that we had our bad match tonight, and not against Malawi tomorrow,” said Kotze. “But I was proud of the way the team continued to fight, even though things weren’t going as planned. But they never gave up, and they showed a lot of character.”

Captain Amanda Mynhardt – who played her heart out and was superb in defence — said the SPAR Proteas had been “shocked” by the way Northern Ireland had played. “Perhaps we were a bit complacent at the start. They are ranked well below us, and we should have beaten them easily. But they fought like tigers and they played very well. Congratulations to them – they gave us a very tough time. “But I knew that we would win. We just made things difficult for ourselves by panicking when we couldn’t play our own way.”
In the play-off for fifth place, South Africa meet Malawi, who have been something of a bogey team in recent years, but Mynhardt and Kotze are both confident that they can turn the tables on Sunday. “We just have to make sure that we come out fighting and that we play hard for the full 60 minutes,” said Mynhardt. “We want to prove that we are the best team in Africa.”

Kotze said she was pleased to be meeting up with the Proteas’ nemesis. “We’ll be playing on neutral ground, with excellent umpires, and we will beat them,” she said.

Australia and New Zealand will once again meet in the final on Sunday. New Zealand beat England 49-34 in the first semifinal, and Australia beat thrashed Jamaica 82-46 in the second.


DOUBLES WILL BE KEY SAYS DE JAGER

South African team captain John-Laffnie de Jager said the doubles encounter on Saturday will be crucial in determining the outcome of their Euro-Africa Group One Davis Cup tie against the Netherlands in Potchefstroom.
“If you look at Davis Cup ties, the majority are won by the side that wins doubles,” said De Jager.
“Tomorrow’s doubles will be key for us.”
Kevin Anderson levelled the singles with his victory in four sets over Dutchman Thomas Schoorel after Rik de Voest lost his earlier match against Robin Haase, also in four sets.

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PROTEAS DOWN, BUT FAR FROM OUT

Singapore - South Africa lost their quarterfinal match against New Zealand at the World Netball Championships at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Friday, but the Proteas can hold their heads high after a gallant battle against the world number one team.

New Zealand won the match 58-28, after leading 27-17 at halftime, but it was the SPAR South African team who led 11-10 after the first quarter. South Africa came out with all guns blazing at the start of the match, and were first to score. They led for most of the quarter, although New Zealand moved into the lead for a brief period after 10 minutes.

New Zealand made several changes for the second quarter, with former Protea player Leana de Bruin coming on as goalkeeper to earn her 50th Test cap for the Silver Ferns, to add to her 34 caps for South Africa. New Zealand took charge of the court, with the South Africans guilty of some wild passes. New Zealand outscored South Africa by 17 goals to six in the second quarter.

Another ex-Protea, Irene van Dyk, arguably the most accurate goalshooter in the world, showed no mercy for her former compatriots, living up to her formidable record, but she went off at halftime, to be replaced by Paula Griffin, who gave the South Africans little breathing space.

The Proteas fought hard throughout the match, but were undone by the Silver Ferns’ greater speed and accurate passes. New Zealand scored 15 goals to South Africa’s six in the third quarter and 16-5 in the fourth. The last time the teams met, New Zealand beat South Africa 70-29.

Van Dyk, who was part of South Africa’s silver medal-winning team in 1995, was full of praise for South Africa. “South Africa came out on fire. If they can string four quarters like that first quarter together, they can be world beaters,” she said. “This team seems to be a very happy team, and they have a lot of self-belief. I believe that if they can maintain the core of that team for the next few years, they will become very competitive.”

South African goalshooter, Claudia Basson, said after the way they had played, the players believed that they could compete with the top teams. “If we can maintain our consistency, we can beat any team,” she said.

Head coach Elize Kotze said she was happy that New Zealand had been forced to make a number of substitutions. “They had to change their game plans, because we weren’t allowing them to play the way they wanted to,” she said. “I am delighted that the team is playing with courage and pride, and they no longer feel inferior to the top teams. I think this team is just beginning to show what they can do.”

South Africa will play Northern Ireland on Saturday, with the winner earning the right to play in the fifth-sixth place playoff on Sunday.


SOUTH AFRICA READY FOR MASSIVE GAME

Singapore - After finishing second in their pool at the World Netball Championships, the SPAR South African netball team had a rest day on Thursday.

The Proteas were planning to tour Chinatown before settling down to plan for their toughest game of the tournament – the quarterfinal against world number one, New Zealand, on Friday morning (South African time).

The last time the two teams met was at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi last year, when New Zealand beat South Africa 70-29. However, South African vice-captain, Zanele Mdodana, believes New Zealand may be surprised this time. “We have made a lot of progress since then, and we are a very different team now,” she said. “What is important when we play them is that we mustn’t try to beat them at their own game. We must stick to our own style and play our own game. New Zealand are the best team in the world, and we will have to play our best to beat them.”

Mdodana said playing New Zealand in the knock-out stages of the World Championships would be “an awesome experience.” “We have watched plenty of video footage of how they play, and we know what to expect and how to manage each player. I think they don’t know as much about us as we know about them.”

The New Zealand team includes two former Proteas: goal shooter Irene van Dyk, who was part of the South African team that won the silver medal at the World Championships in 1995, and Leana de Bruin, who represented South Africa at the 1999 World Championships. They are among an elite group of players to play for the Silver Ferns at three world tournaments, and De Bruin will have something extra to celebrate on Friday – she will earn her 50th Test cap against her former team. “It’s a bit like rubbing salt into the wound, isn’t it,” she said. “It will be a fantastic experience.”

“Irene and Leana are just members of the opposite team,” said Mdodana. “We don’t feel differently about them. Knowing Leana, she’s going to go all out against us. She’s a fighter – she’s South African, after all. But we wish her well and congratulations to her – it’s a great achievement.”

Head coach Elize Kotze is likely to start with her strongest team. South Africa started slowly in each of their pool games, trailing their opponents at the end of the first quarter in each game, and Kotze had to bring in her experienced players to rescue the situation. “The first quarter is always difficult, as teams feel their way,” said Kotze. “It’s important not to get too far behind at the start of the match. I wanted to give my more experienced players a bit of a break, but I can see we are going to be relying on them in the knock-out stages.

Kotze, who was also in the silver medal-winning team in 1995, said the SPAR Proteas would definitely not be over-awed by playing New Zealand. “We beat the Silver Ferns in 1995, which proves we can beat them,” she said. “Whatever happens tomorrow, we can gain so much from playing the best teams. It gives us an accurate measure of our progress, and we can see from playing them what we need to do to step up to the next level.”


SOUTH AFRICA THROUGH TO QUARTERFINALS

Singapore - The SPAR South African netball team achieved the first aim of their World Netball Championships campaign on Wednesday night when they beat Botswana 57-38 in their last pool match.

The victory means South Africa finish second in their pool, behind Jamaica, who won all their matches. South Africa will play world number one, New Zealand, in the quarterfinal on Friday.

The Proteas started off slowly and at the end of the first quarter trailed Botswana by 9 points to 11 - something that has been a feature of their performance at the tournament so far. Head coach Elize Kotze once again made three substitutions, bringing on heavyweights LeighAnn Zackey, Zanele Mdodana and Maryka Holtzhausen. “I was trying to give some of the younger players more game time, but then I realised the team needed the experienced players to come on,” she said. “The first quarter is always difficult, because the players are feeling their way.”

South Africa outscored Botswana by 14 goals to seven in the second quarter, but it was not until Claudia Basson came back after halftime that the Proteas really took command of the match. They led 23-18 at halftime, but then began to pull away from Botswana.

It was a very physical match, and the South Africans were guilty of some wild passing, which kept Botswana in contention. However, after the break, they appeared to get their rhythm and the outcome became more assured.

The youngest member of the team, Bongiwe Msomi, had an outstanding game, achieving a number of turnovers, and earned herself the player of the match award.

Although it was a patchy game, the SPAR Proteas were very happy with the result, which means they will finish in the top eight. Captain Amanda Mynhardt said the players would have a rest on Thursday, ahead of their match against a New Zealand team that includes two former South African players, Irene van Dyk and Leana de Bruin.

“We’re very happy to have finished the pool stages on a high,” Mynhardt said. “We know that New Zealand will be a whole new ball game, but we will be able to measure how far we have come by playing against the best. The day’s rest tomorrow will do the players’ bodies good, and we will be ready to take on the Silver Ferns on Friday.”
Vice-captain Zanele Mdodana said it would be an awesome experience playing against the world number one team. “We’ll be playing the best, so we will have to play our best,” she said.

The other teams to reach the quarterfinal stage are Australia, England, Malawi, Fiji, and Trinidad and Tobago.


SOUTH AFRICA’S SEMIFINAL DREAMS SHATTERED

Singapore - South Africa came down to earth with a bang on Monday when the SPAR South African team lost heavily to Jamaica in their opening match of the World Netball Championships at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Jamaica won the match 72-45, after leading 34-20 at halftime.

The Proteas held their own in the first quarter, even briefly taking the lead after 10 minutes. At the end of the quarter, Jamaica led 15-11.

SPAR Proteas Goal Keeper Vanes-Mari Du Toit against the towering Jamaican Goal Shooter Romelda Aiken
SPAR Proteas Goal Keeper Vanes-Mari Du Toit against the towering Jamaican Goal Shooter Romelda Aiken

Pictures by Duif Du Toit / Gallo Images

SPAR Proteas Goal Keeper Vanes-Mari Du Toit against the towering Jamaican Goal Shooter Romelda Aiken
SPAR Proteas Goal Keeper Vanes-Mari Du Toit against the towering Jamaican Goal Shooter Romelda Aiken

Pictures by Duif Du Toit / Gallo Images

Jamaica stormed ahead in the second quarter, and it was probably here that the match was lost, as they outscored South Africa by 19 goals to nine. South Africa fought back strongly in the third. Claudia Basson replaced Chrisna Bootha as goal shooter, and her accuracy was a major factor in South Africa’s good performance in the second half. Bootha appeared to be afflicted by nerves, and missed a number of shots at goal, whereas Basson was successful with 12 out of 14 in the third quarter, and 11 out of 12 in the fourth.

Jamaica, who recently drew a three-Test series against second-ranked Australia, and who beat third-ranked England 2-1, were impressive throughout, with goal shooters Romelda Aiken and Jhaniele Fowler using their superior height to good effect.

The defeat makes South Africa’s progress in the tournament more difficult. The team finishing second in Pool C will meet the winner of Pool B in the quarterfinals – and that will almost certainly be world number one New Zealand.

Head coach Elize Kotze was visibly disappointed, but praised her team for the way they fought back in the second half. “We can’t make excuses. We were beaten by a better team. I think we need to play the top four teams on a more regular basis to get used to playing at that level,” she said.

Kotze said the players would have to regroup before their second match, against hosts Singapore, on Tuesday. “We’ll have a hard training session and try to remedy some of our mistakes,” she said. “We have to beat Singapore to make sure we have a chance of getting through to the quarterfinals,” she said. “We know Singapore – we played them recently. We’ll use different strategies and different combinations for that game.”

Goal defence Leigh-Ann Zackey said playing the host nation was always a privilege. “We know that there will be a lot of support for them, and we always enjoy playing in front of a crowd,” she said. “We hope that we will play well enough to win the crowd over.”


WEVE BEEN PREPARING FOR SIX MONTHS FOR JAMAICA – MYNHARDT

Singapore - South Africa’s netball world championship campaign gets underway on Monday when the SPAR National Netball Team take on Jamaica in their opening match.

Jamaica are ranked fourth in the world to South Africa’s sixth, and the match is seen as the most important match in Pool C, because the team that finishes on top of the Pool will avoid playing world number one, New Zealand in the quarterfinals. The other teams in Pool C are Botswana and hosts Singapore, who are ranked 16th and 21st respectively.

SPAR Proteas Vice-Captain Zanele Mdodana, head coach Elize Kotze and Captain Amanda Mynhardt feeling confident ahead of their first match against Jamaica in the World Netball Championships.

Team South Africa’s introductory march at the Opening Ceremony of the World Netball Championships.

“We’ve been preparing for Jamaica for six months,” said Proteas captain Amanda Mynhardt. “It’s the match we’ve been dreaming about, and we are pretty confident that we can win it. The girls are really pumped, the vibe in the squad is fantastic and we just can’t wait to get going.”

Head coach Elize Kotze said the team’s preparations since arriving in Singapore nearly two weeks ago had gone very well. “We hit the ground running,” she said. “Within an hour and a half of landing, we held a training session on the beach, and we kept the team going all day so that they got used to the time difference very quickly. I believe we are as well prepared as we can be.”

She said the team was confident ahead of their opening match. “”We’ve studied all aspects of Jamaica and the way they play,” said Kotze. “We’ve done video analysis of Jamaica, and I believe we know far more about them than they know about us.”

Vice-captain Zanele Mdodana agreed that the players were feeling very good ahead of the match. “We’ve tried out different combinations to see how they work and we’re feeling good about ourselves. I’d say we’re confident, but not over-confident.

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula flew to Singapore last week to attend a party for the SPAR Proteas at the South African Embassy, and to wish the players well. “It’s incredibly important for us to know that we have support from more than just our friends and families,” said Mynhardt. “The Minister told us we had the support of the nation behind us, and that will help us play to the best of our abilities.”

The championships got under way on Sunday with a match between Singapore and Botswana, following a colourful ceremony at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. South Africa played a role in the opening match when Theresa Prince, who has been added to the panel of umpires for the week-long tournament, was chosen to present the match ball to the two teams.

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