Blantyre, Malawi – After a nail biting match against their netball nemesis Malawi, the SPAR Proteas regained their title of top team in Africa when they won 54-52 in the final of the African Netball Championships.

“It was war out there today” said head coach Elize Kotze in a post-match interview. “Once again, it was very physical, and playing amidst a huge Malawian crowd was very intimidating, but we did it.”

Starting off well in the first quarter, the SPAR Proteas were settled in their combinations, and proved to match the Malawians in their attack, resulting in a one goal lead after the end of the first quarter. Malawi fought back but the girls in green and gold maintained their lead, to end half time with a 25-20 lead.

However, things started to get ugly in the third quarter when Malawi gained momentum and had outscored South Africa by 36 goals to 33 after that quarter whistle. In true African netball style the Malawi Queens were not afraid to use force to get their way, and Captain Maryka Holtzhausen had to be side-lined after being hit in the face in the fourth quarter. South Africa was 7 goals down, and it was at this point that Kotze made a number of changes, putting Erin Burger on goal attack and Yolandi Stone on wing attack. Adele Niemand (who earned her 50th cap in Thursday’s match against Uganda) made a critical intercept in the last two minutes of regulation time, to bring the score down to a one goal difference. The SPAR Proteas then went on to equal the score two seconds before the final whistle at 44 all.

A team talk, and the motivation of winning for Tata Madiba gave the SPAR Proteas that extra shove, and after half time of extra time, South Africa led 48-46. Maryka had returned to court, and order had been restored, with Erin Burger replacing the Tiger Bongiwe Msomi, who was suffering from cramps, in centre. When the final whistle blew, the SPAR Proteas celebrated their 54-52 win, and the Malawian crowd dispersed in tears.

“I am extremely proud” said Kotze. “We have now lost the Malawi ghost, and are officially top in Africa and fifth in the world.”


Blantyre, Malawi – Despite sailing through the first two games of the African Netball Championships, the SPAR Proteas were given a run for their money in Thursday’s match against Uganda. The SPAR Proteas just won with 46 to Uganda’s 39.

Known for their rough and aggressive style of play; the Ugandan’s lived up to their reputation. Using tempestuous and dirty tactic, the Ugandan team pushed and shoved their way into a lead in the second quarter, leaving the SPAR Proteas trailing by 16 goals to 19 for the first time in the championships.

Playing for her 50th cap, Vanes-Mari du Toit earned her stripes, when she took on the position of goal shooter in the third and fourth quarter to combat the destruction caused by Ugandan goal keeper Martha Soigi, who was eventually sent off in the third quarter for foul play. “It was an intensely physical game” said head coach Elize Kotze after the match. “Our girls showed extreme character in very difficult circumstances, and we pulled through.”

“We had to adjust to the unpredictable and direct style of African netball, and change our defence which is not in our nature. But now we are well prepared and confident for the semi-finals tomorrow against Zambia. Malawi still have to survive Uganda.”

The SPAR Proteas who wore red armbands in tribute to South African icon Nelson Mandela, will play Zambia tomorrow at 11h00, after their nemesis Malawi takes on Uganda at 09h00. The finals will be played at 14h00.


Blantyre, Malawi – The SPAR Proteas eased into the semi-finals of the African Netball Championships when they outplayed Swaziland by 73-28 goals in their match on Wednesday.

Unaffected by the harsh African conditions of playing outdoors in the midday sun, the SPAR Proteas showed their strength against their physical opponents. “We had a good game” said coach Elize Kotze after the match, “We had to keep motivated due to our strong lead, but we kept the focus and are setting our combinations for the final.”

Asset Vanes-Mari du Toit had a brilliant game, and her height which outmatches any of the other players was a huge advantage; “Vanes-Mari had a fantastic game on goalkeeper. The Swaziland team was extremely physical in their goal circle, and they have some tall players, but they can’t match Vanes.” Despite the turnaround of players in each of the quarters, Swaziland was no competition for the girls in green and gold.

South Africa will take on Uganda in tomorrow’s game at 16h00. Aware that this is an incredibly physical team, the SPAR Proteas will be relying on their speed; “Defence is always tough against African countries because it is difficult to read the play” said assistant coach Lana Krige. “But we play a faster game, which helps with possession of the ball. We don’t need to play such a physical game when we have speed on our side.”

The semi-finals will be played on Friday at 11h00 against pool 1’s runner up, followed by the finals against Malawi at 14h00.


Johannesburg, South Africa - The SPAR Grand Prix title appears to be heading for a new winner, after Mapaseka Makhanya’s decisive victory in the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge in Durban on Sunday, although the battle for the title appears to be the closest in the Grand Prix’s history.

Rutendo Nyahora and Mapaseka Makhanya ahead of the pack (Diana-Lebo Phalula, Christine Kalmer and Rene Kalmer) during Sunday’s race.

Christine Kalmer in action during the Durban leg of the SPAR Women’s Challenge, run on 23 June 2013.
Pictures by: Reg Caldecott

After running neck and neck with Rutendo Nyahora, who won the first two Challenges this year, Makhanya made her break at 5km on Sunday and showed the rest of the field a clean pair of heels. Her victory, in a personal best time of 32.49 minutes, earned her 30 Grand Prix points (20 from the win, and 10 earned for beating last years’ time), and boosted her to 67 points.

The Grand Prix has become a major element on South Africa’s road-running calendar, with South Africa’s best runners battling it out for top honours in the five Challenge races, which are held in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg. The winner this year will receive a personalised Nissan Micra car and the runner-up will take home R30 000.
Runners earn Grand Prix points according to their positions in the five Challenge races. The top 20 runners in each race earn Grand Prix points, with the winner receiving 20 and the 20th-placed runner one point.

Nyahora, who won the first two Challenges this year, in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, does not qualify for Grand Prix points, because she is a Zimbabwean. The Grand Prix is open only to South Africans.

Since its introduction in 2007, the Grand Prix title has been shared between teammates, Rene Kalmer and Irvette van Zyl, with Poppy Mlambo named the winner in 2008. But this time it is Kalmer’s younger sister, Christine, who is challenging Makhanya. Christine Kalmer, who works as a civil engineer, finished third on Sunday and has accumulated 48 points, after finishing seventh in Cape Town and fifth in Port Elizabeth.

There is close competition for the next few places. Van Zyl and Myrette Filmalter are lying joint third, with 40 points, followed by Rene Kalmer and Nolene Conrad, who have 34. Diana-Lebo Phalula and Jenna Challenor are in joint seventh position, with 33 points. Zintle Xiniwe is in ninth position, with 27 points, and Mlambo is in 10th, with 24. With two races to go, the tussle for the Grand Prix is still wide open.

Three-times winner Rene Kalmer, who missed the Port Elizabeth race because of an Achilles tendon injury she sustained in the Boston Marathon, still has an outside chance of making up lost ground, if she wins the last two Challenge races, in Pretoria and Johannesburg. But Kalmer has struggled with injury this year, and said after the Durban race that she was not putting any pressure on herself. “I had a brilliant year last year, with the Olympics and everything else, but my body is telling me to take it a bit easier this year. Some people take a year off to have babies – I’m having a year off for injuries,” she laughed.

But Rene would be thrilled if Christine could win the title. “I’m so proud of her,” she said. “She has a fulltime job, whereas most of us are professional athletes, so she is doing fantastically. I would love her to win the car.”

Makhanya, the South African 1500m and 5000 champion, took up road running as part of her preparation for moving to longer distances on the track. Track running is still her first love, but she is also determined to win the Grand Prix and take home the car.

Grand Prix standings after three races:
Senior: 1 Mapaseka Makhanya (Transnet) 67; 2 Christine Kalmer (Nedbank CG) 48; 3 Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank CG) and Myrette Filmalter (Nedbank GN) 40; 5 Rene Kalmer (Nedbank CG) and Nolene Conrad (Nedbank CG) 34: 7 Diana-Lebo Phalula (Maxed Elite CG) and Jenna Challenor (Boxer KZN) 33: 9 Zintle Xiniwe (Maxed Elite WP) 27; 10 Poppy Mlambo (Boxer CG) 24
Junior: 1 Annie Botha 20; 2 Ileana Dreyer, Jamie-Lee Schlemmer, and Nicole van der Merwe 4
Veterans: 1 Janene Carey 19; 2 Ronel Thomas 6; 3 Linley Holmes 4
Masters: 1 Grace de Oliviera 28; 2 Annatjie Botes 13; 3 Mariette Strauss 10
Grandmasters: 1 Sonja Laxton 10; 2 Lien Botha 5; 3 Helen du Plessis, Liz Grundlingh and Sandra Fismer 4


Blantyre, Malawi – The SPAR Proteas launched their African Championships campaign with a winning start in their match against Namibia on Tuesday.

Feeling upbeat and confident going into today’s game, the SPAR Proteas used the match as a platform to test out combinations and pairings for the final, where they are likely to take on Malawi. Despite a bit of a slow start, the South African side had doubled their opponent’s points by the end of the first quarter, and carried the lead through to the end, where they defeated the Namibian team 75-34.

“We are playing some beautiful netball” said head coach Elize Kotze after the game, “The girls are adapting well and are strong minded. Colleen Ferreira was a stronghold in the tie, and it is a blessing to have Erin Burger back in the squad, who makes a huge difference on attack.”

Looking forward to tomorrow’s game where South Africa will take on Swaziland, Kotze is optimistic. “We will be analysing Swaziland this afternoon. It is difficult playing African countries because we have nothing on the teams, but we know that they play direct netball. We are not expecting them to be stronger than Namibia”


Durban, South Africa - Transnet’s Mapaseka Makhanya, better known as a track runner, cruised to victory in the SPAR Women’s Challenge in Durban on Sunday in a time of 32.49 minutes.

The top 3 finishers (L-R) Rutendo Nyahora (2nd), Mapaseka Makhanya (Winner) and the 3rd placed Christine Kalmer in the SPAR Women’s Challenge run in Durban on Sunday, 23 June 2013.

Mapaseka Makhanya danced across the finish line, after winning with a PB of 32.49 in the Durban leg of the SPAR Women’s Challenge.
Pics by: Reg Caldecott

Rutendo Nyahora (Nedbank CGA), who won the Cape Town and Port Elizabeth races, finished second, in 33.55, followed by Christine Kalmer (Nedbank CGA), who crossed the line in 34.13. Kalmer’s sister, Rene, finished fourth, 24 seconds after her younger sister.

Sixteen-thousand 309 runners entered the 24th edition of the oldest Challenge race and the 5km Fun Run. A young, unidentified runner stormed into the lead at the start, but she was soon overtaken by the established runners, who ran in a bunch for the first five kilometres.

Makhanya broke away at that stage, and gradually extended her lead. “I was feeling good, so I decided to go for it,” she said. “I didn’t come here with any definite plan in mind, I just decided to run my own race. I don’t put any pressure of expectations on myself, I just want to run the best race I can.

“I am very happy to have won, but my heart is still very much with track running. I like road running, but I still have big ambitions on the track.” Makhanya, the South African 1500 and 5000m champion, said her next big outing was a 5000m race in Europe.

Nyahora praised Makhanya, saying she had run a very good race. “I think her track running gives her a lot of speed. I am pleased with my performance today, because I ran the best race I could.”

Kalmer, who led the race for a brief period, said her third place was her best finish in a Challenge race. “I am absolutely delighted to have come third. “I was a bit surprised when I found myself in the lead – I usually let the others go ahead and then see where I can fit in, so this was a bit unusual for me. But then Mapaseka and Rutendo overtook me, and that was that.”

Rene Kalmer said this was her first race since the Boston Marathon, where she picked up an Achilles’ tendon injury. “I had a fantastic year last year, with the Olympic Games and a lot of other good results, and I think my body is telling me to have a bit of a break. I was pleased with my fourth position, but I am so proud of Christine coming third. She works fulltime, so coming third is a huge achievement for her.”
Makhyana’s victory puts her in pole position on the SPAR Grand Prix table. The winner of the Grand Prix will receive a Nissan Micra car, and the runner-up will take home R30 000.


Johannesburg, South Africa - The SPAR South African netball team and their long-standing rivals, Malawi, have been drawn in separate pools at the African Netball Championships in Blantyre next week.

Nokuthula Qegu in action against Malawi during the final match of the 2012 Diamond Challenge.
Pic by: Reg Caldecott

Malawi are in Pool 1, with Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana, while South Africa are joined in Pool 2 by Namibia, Swaziland and Uganda.

The tournament begins on Monday, with an opening ceremony followed by the match between hosts Malawi and neighbours Zimbabwe. South Africa play Namibia on Tuesday morning, Swaziland on Wednesday afternoon, and they round up the Pool section of the tournament when they take on Uganda on Thursday evening.

Malawi and South Africa, the strongest teams in the tournament, are expected to cruise through the pool matches and the semi-finals and meet in the final at two o’clock on Friday afternoon.

Malawi have long been South Africa’s nemesis, although the South Africans have had the upper hand in recent encounters. National coach Elize Kotze believes the SPAR Proteas are well-prepared for the championships and should return home with the title. Despite the set-back of losing a player, as Nontle Gwavu had to pull out last minute due to injury, the coach is optimistic.

“Their experience in the Quad Series against Australia, New Zealand and England last year should prove invaluable,” she said. “They learnt so much about decision-making and thinking on their feet,” she said. “We have a very mature and experienced team, and there is great understanding among the players. African teams are often very physical and unpredictable, but we are ready for them.”


Johannesburg, South Africa - Some familiar faces have returned to the SPAR National Netball Team announced by Netball South Africa (NSA) on Wednesday.

Back row (l-r): Colleen Ferreira, Adele Niemand, Tsakane Mbewe, Karla Mostert, Thuli Qegu, Zanele Mdodana, Maryka Holzhausen, Vanes-Mari du Toit, Nontle Gwavu.
Front row (l-r): Yolandi Saalmans, Precious Mthembu, Erin Burger, Bongiwe Msomi.

Yolandi Saalmans in action against the SPAR Baby Proteas, during a training match held in Potchefstroom this past weekend.
Pictures by: Mario van de Wall

“We’ve chosen a very strong and mature team for the African Championships in Malawi,” said head coach Elize Kotze. “We’re delighted to welcome back players like Yolandi Saalmans, who played for South Africa as long ago as 2006, and Nontle Gwavu,” she said.

“Yolandi, who is married now and has a child, has been to a couple of training camps and has done very well. She’s very talented and committed, and has a lot of experience, which will be very valuable. She is extremely fit – in fact, she ranked third when we tested the players’ fitness at our training camp in Potchefstroom last weekend. Mimi Mthethwa, President NSA, said that they were happy to have found another specialist wing attack in Yolandi, as Nadia Uys is still struggling with an injury.

“I’m also very pleased that Nontle has come back and has shown that she is keen to play for South Africa again. I think it’s a compliment that these semi-retired players are coming back.”

A number of senior members of the national team were unavailable for selection, either because of injury or work commitments, but Kotze was happy with the team selected. “It’s also wonderful to have Erin Burger (Player of the Tournament at the 2011 World Netball Championships) back in the team, after recovering from injury. She is such a versatile player and has so much talent that she always makes a difference,” said Kotze.

The coach said the experience the SPAR Proteas gained from playing in the Quad Series against Australia, New Zealand and England last year was proving invaluable. “They moved to a different level, as far as their thinking and decision-making is concerned,” she said. “They have been growing with every training camp, and they are really ready to take on the best Africa has to offer. Tournaments in Africa are always tough – conditions are often difficult, and the players can be very physical and unpredictable. But the Proteas played the best in the world last year, and came back with their heads held high,” she said.

There is only one new cap in the team, with Colleen Ferreira coming in as goalshooter. “Melissa Myburgh and Chrisna Bootha have both been out with injury, and so we have brought Colleen in. She’s an extremely physical player, and will certainly be able to stand her ground against any other player,” said Kotze. Colleen was previously ranked 4th on the squad’s list of shooters by selectors at the last SPAR National Championships, and so was invited to the training camp, where she proved herself as a player for selection for the African Championships.

Maryka Holtzhausen will captain the team, in the absence of Amanda Mynhardt, who is playing netball in New Zealand, and Bongiwe Msomi has been named vice-captain.
The championships start on Monday and end on Saturday.

SPAR National team: Tsakane Mbewe, Maryka Holtzhausen (captain), Yolandi Saalmans, Bongiwe Msomi (vice-captain), Erin Burger, Nokuthula Qegu, Precious Mthebu, Karla Mostert, Adele Niemand, Nontle Gwavu, Colleen Ferreira, Vanes-Mari du Toit.


Johannesburg, South Africa - The race for the 2013 SPAR Grand Prix title is wide open ahead of the Durban SPAR Women’s 10 km Challenge on Sunday.

Rene Kalmer in action during the 2012 Durban SPAR Women’s Challenge.
Pic by: Reg Caldecott

Last year’s winner, Rene Kalmer, who has won the title three times, is fighting fit again, and is likely to be hard to beat in Sunday’s race. Kalmer was recovering from injury at the Cape Town Challenge, where she finished fourth, and could not compete in Port Elizabeth, after sustaining an Achilles’ tendon injury in the Boston Marathon.

However, Kalmer is confident that she can make up the deficit and retain her title. “Three races give me the opportunity to make up lost points,” she said. “I just have to run my best and win the last three races.”

But Challenge newcomer Mapaseka Makhanya, who currently heads the Grand Prix ladder, with 37 points, after finishing second in Cape Town and third in Port Elizabeth, has staked her claim to the Nissan Micra the winner will receive. “I want that car,” she laughed. “I believe this is my year, and I can win it.”

Makhanya is better known as a track runner, and is in the process of moving from 800 and 1500 metres to 5000 and 10 000 metres events, and is using the SPAR Women’s Challenge Series as part of her training programme. “I need to get the mileage in my legs for the longer races,” she explained. “But I am more used to running on the track – I find road running a bit harder. I have to convert the kilometres to metres – I can accept 10 000metres, but I find the thought of 10kms quite daunting.”

Grand Prix points are awarded to the top runners in the five Challenge races, which are run in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg. The winner will receive a personalised Nissan Micra, and the runner-up will receive R30 000.

Rutendo Nyahora won the first two races this year, but as a Zimbabwean, is not eligible for Grand Prix points, which are awarded only to South Africans. “I’m just enjoying the races and am determined to win all five this year,” she said after her victory in Port Elizabeth. However, with Kalmer back at her best, Nyahora may have to look to her laurels on Sunday.


Paris, France - South African wheelchair tennis ace KG Montjane has been ousted from the French Open in Paris.

Montjane was beaten in both the singles and doubles semi-finals on Thursday after a disappointing day on the red clay of Roland Garros

In the singles, Montjane went down to second seed and world number 2 Jiske Grifjoen of The Netherlands 1-6 3-6. A rather nervous Montjane lost the opening set in less than 30 minutes. In the second set, Montjane regrouped somewhat and fought hard but still never found the “groove” that has got her to the world number six ranking.

Top seeded Dutch combination of Grifjoen and Anniek van Koot then beat Montjane and her German partner, Katherina Kruger 6-1 6-1.

“It wasn’t a good day for me on court today” admitted Montjane. “I really tried my best, but could never get into my playing game. I felt I had chances especially in the second set but then could not convert them, made silly mistakes and far too many unforced errors.”


Paris, France - South African number 1 wheelchair tennis star KG Montjane has made a solid start at Roland Garros.

The Limpopo star, won her opening round match against Sharon Walraven of the Netherlands 7-6 (5) 1-6 6-4 today (Wednesday).

Montjane qualified for the elite top eight tournament due to her world ranking of six.

According to Montjane’s coach Holger Losch, Montjane won a “hard grind after the long travel but she won through”. Montjane flew on Monday from Japan to Paris on her birthday arriving at Roland Garros late evening.
In Japan, Montjane reached the semi-finals of the singles and finals of the doubles (with Marilein Buis of The Netherlands).

Montjane now moves into the semi-finals of the French Open Women’s Wheelchair Tennis Champs where she will play against second seed and world number 2 Jiske Grifjoen of Holland tomorrow (Thursday). Montjane after her singles will team up with German star Katherina Kruger in the semis of the doubles. Montjane and Kruger play top seeds Jiske Grifjoen and Anniek van Koot of The Netherlands.


Johannesburg, South Africa - Tennis South Africa have announced their strongest possible junior team to represent South Africa at the Qualifying for the Under 14 World Junior Finals and Under 16 Junior Fed Cup and Davis Cup.

The tournament will take place in Tunis , Tunisia from 10 to 15 June 2013.

The winners of the Under 14 World Junior Qualifying event will represent the continent at The World Junior Tennis Finals 2013 which will take place in Prostejov, Czech Republic from 5 to 10 August 2013.

The winners of the Under 16 Junior Fed and Davis Cup Qualifying will travel to Mexico where they will represent Africa in the Finals of The Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup by BNP Paribas from 23 to 29 September 2013.

The Teams are:

Girls U 14
Lee Barnard (GN)
Zani Barnard (GN)
Minette van Vreden (BOL)

Boys U14
Richard Thongoana (GC)
Lance-Pierre du Toit (BOL)
Rossouw Norval (BOL)

Girls U 16
Nadine de Villiers (GC)
Huibre-Mare Botes (FS)
Louise-Mare Botes (FS)

Boys U 16
Lloyd Harris (WP)
Brandon Laubser (GE)
Francois Kellerman (BOL)

The coaches for the teams are confirmed as Terrey Schweitzer (Gauteng East) and Jared Temlett (KwaZulu Natal)

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