SOUTH AFRICA MOVE UP A PLACE AT FASTNET TOURNAMENT

Head coach of the SPAR South African netball team, Elize Kotze, said on Monday she was happy with the Proteas’ performance at the Fastnet netball tournament in Liverpool over the weekend, although much improvement was still needed.

South Africa finished fifth in the tournament, which involved the world’s top six netball countries.

Fastnet is a shortened version of netball – equivalent to Twenty20 cricket. Quarters are only six minutes long, shooters can score from inside or outside the goal circle, with goals scored from outside earning double points, and rolling substitutions are allowed throughout the match. Each team can also select one quarter as a power play, when all goals scored are doubled.

“We are happy that we moved up a position in the Fastnet tournament, after finishing sixth last year,” said Kotze. “We were generally on a par with the other teams until the third quarter, when we began to flag.”

Kotze said South Africa had not taken full advantage of the power plays “Instead of letting the ball go, we protected it, and then we didn’t score enough goals to earn the double points, whereas the other teams used the power plays to increase their scores, and that led to the difference in the scores. “However, the other teams knew they could not afford not to take us seriously,” she added. “We led England by two goals at one stage, and some of our players were outstanding. What we need, though, is a stronger bench, with 12 players that can keep up with one another. Some of our better players were over-played because we could not afford to rest them.”

Erin Burger, who was Player of the Tournament at the World Netball Championships in Singapore earlier this year, was twice named Player of the Match, and Kotze said that goalshooter Chrisna Bootha had been the talk of the tournament. “She had a fantastic tournament and has made her mark at international level,” said Kotze. “Top players from the other teams came up to her and commended her. Amanda (Mynhardt) once again showed her strength both as captain and player.

I am immensely proud of the team. If we had managed our power plays better, we would have had better scores. “However, there has been positive growth from last year.” During the tournament, South Africa beat Fiji and lost to New Zealand, Jamaica, England and Australia. In the position play-offs, South Africa beat Fiji 25-19 to claim fifth place.


CHAMPAIGN FOR SOUTH AFRICAN TENNIS STARS IN ILLINOIS

Champaign, Illinois, USA; South African Davis Cup stars, Rik De Voest and Izak van Der Merwe ended their 2011 season in style on Sunday at the R500 000.00 JMB Challenger in Champaign, Illinois, USA.

De Voest, seeded 4 reached the singles final losing to unseeded American Alex Kusnetov 1-6 3-6. Van der Merwe, seeded 2 in the singles was upset in the opening round by another American Chris Guccione whose giant killing run was eventually stopped by Kusnetov in the semi finals. As a consolation to the South African’s they teamed up to win the doubles title. De Voest and van Der Merwe seeded four upset top seeds Martin Emmrich (Germany) and Andreas Siljerstrom (Sweden) 2-6 6-3 10-4 in the final. (Is that right?)

“I had a real good week to finish the year and almost a great week had I won that singles title” said De Voest. “But what a bonus to win the last match of the year, the doubles final and even more special winning it with a fellow South African” continued De Voest.

Van Der Merwe said he was disappointed to have lost early in the singles but the doubles win made up for all the disappointment. “Yes I was bummed that I lost in round one especially being seeded 2 and after winning a title the week before. But teaming up with Rik to win the doubles was a nice yearend bonus Xmas present.”

Both players will now take their breaks before preparing for the 2011 season. De Voest will holiday in Palm Springs for a short holiday before returning to his Vancouver base then onto Austin, Texas for the off season training. Van Der Merwe returns to his Stellenbosch base this week for a break and pre-season training.


PLENTY OF EXPERIENCE FOR FAST NET TOURNAMENT

Liverpool, United Kingdom - There are several changes to the SPAR National Netball Team for the Fast Net tournament in Liverpool at the end of November, with stylish goal attack Maryke Holtzhausen and wing/goal defence Precious Mthembu returning to the national team.

Karla Mostert and Kgomotso Itlhabanyeng have also been included in the team. Both have been involved in the Netball South Africa (NSA) training programme since the beginning of the year, and Itlhabanyeng was part of the South Africa team for the All-Africa Games earlier this year.

“Eighty per cent of the team are very experienced and there is no-one in the squad who is totally new,” said head coach Elize Kotze. “I’m very happy to have Maryka back in the team. She is a very important part of the squad.”

The six top ranked countries from 2010 – Australia, New Zealand, England, Jamaica, South Africa and Fiji – will be taking part in the Fast Net tournament from November 25 to 27. Fast Net is the netball equivalent of Twenty20 cricket. Quarters are only six minutes long, shooters can score from inside or outside the goal circle, with goals scored from outside earning double points, and rolling substitutions are allowed throughout the match. Each team can also select one quarter as a power play, when all goals scored are doubled.

“It’s very fast and it’s very exciting,” said Kotze. “You have to play a very technical and tactical game. Maryka and Chrisna (Bootha) have been practising shooting from outside the circle, because during the power play, goals scored from outside the circle are worth four points. Those things become important, because you know that every time you score a goal, the other side is going to get the ball.”

Kotze said Fast Net would help the players to hone their skills and this would improve their performances in normal netball. “For instance, if the goal shooters become comfortable shooting from outside the circle, they will feel more confident about getting out of their comfort zone inside the circle when they play in a standard game. That can affect the defenders, who are used to defending closer to the goalposts.”

The team will have a training camp from November 18 ahead of their departure for Liverpool.

SPAR National Netball Team: Tsakane Mbewe, Chrisna Bootha, Maryka Holtzhausen, Vanes-Mari du Toit, Bongiwe Msomi, Erin Burger, Nokuthula (Thuli) Qegu, Amanda Mynhardt (capt), Kgomotso Itlhabanyeng, Zukelwa Cwaba, Karla Mostert, Precious Mthembu.


DE JAGER TO CAPTAIN BOTH SOUTH AFRICA’S DAVIS AND FED CUP TEAMS

Johannesburg - Owing to his success with the South African Davis Cup team, the South African Tennis Association (SATA) have decided not only to reappoint John-Laffnie de Jager for another year, but to increase his area of responsibility and also hand over to him captaincy of the Fed Cup. De Jager takes over the Fed Cup captaincy from Greer Leo-Smith (nee Stevens) who was contracted to the position in March 2009.
“After a thorough interview process and careful consideration by the Board of the SATA, John-Laffnie de Jager has been appointed as captain of both the South African Davis Cup and Fed Cup Tennis teams,” announced SATA chief executive Ian Smith.

The deciding factors in this decision were past record and knowledge of senior and developing players.
We know he and the players of both teams will do us proud.”

In this picture: John-Laffnie de Jager captain of the South African Davis and Fed Cups
Picture by: Reg Caldecott

John-Laffnie de Jager was first appointed Captain on the Davis Cup team in 2005. In 2009 de Jager was re-appointed to the position until 2011.
As far as the Davis Cup competition is concerned, South Africa will be looking to gain promotion to the World Group next year. The country are currently Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 and have received a first round bye in 2012 and will play the winner of the Denmark v Slovenia tie in the second round.

South Africa will compete in Europe/Africa Zone Group II of the Fed Cup next year following promotion from Group III.
In the country’s last tie Chanel Simmonds and Natalie Grandin secured the victory over Egypt after winning their respective singles matches in straight sets. South Africa were promoted after an overall 3-0 win in the play-off.
“It is a great privilege for me to be appointed Davis and Fed Cup captain,” says De Jager. “It’s an exciting and challenging time for both teams with the Davis Cup team trying to get into the World Group and the Fed Cup Team trying to get into Group 1 and then the World Group.

“Kevin Anderson, Chani Scheepers and Natalie Grandin had their best year on the tour and that is very exciting for SA tennis. The time is right for getting the new generation of players involved so they can learn from the older and more experienced players.”

He added that one of his priorities is to encourage both Anderson and Scheepers to play next year. “We have seen the huge influence Kevin had on the Davis Cup team and I am sure Chani will have the same impact on the Fed Cup team.

“I am very passionate about my country and it is a huge privilege to serve it,” concluded De Jager.


IZAK VAN DER MERWE VICTORIOUS IN THE USA

Knoxville, USA - South African Davis Cup star, Izak van der Merwe captured his first US singles title on Sunday when he won the R600 000.00 Virginia National Bank Men’s Pro Championship in Charlottesville,

Izak van Der Merwe in action
Izak van Der Merwe in action

Pictures by: Reg Caldecott

van der Merwe, seeded five beat unseeded American, Jesse Levine 4-6 6-3 6-4 in the final. Levine, a qualifier was in excellent form having upset seventh seeded Michael Yani (USA) and second seeded Michael Russell (USA) en route to the final.

“It feels great to win my first title in America” said van der Merwe. “I served well all week and knew that if I kept up getting to the net and putting pressure on my opponent I would have a great chance at winning the final.”
van der Merwe will play two more tournaments this year in the USA, the Tour events in Knoxville, Tennessee and Champaign, Illinois before returning to his home in Stellenbosch.
“This win has given me great confidence for the 2012 season” concluded van der Merwe.

Meanwhile in the same event, fellow SA Davis Cup player, Raven Klaasen of Cape Town reached the doubles final with his American partner John Paul Fruttero. Klaasen and Fruttero squandered two match points in losing to Treat Conrad Huey(Philippines) and Dominic Inglot (Great Britain) 6-4 3-6 7-10 in the final.

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