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.