SPAR BABY PROTEAS END WITHWIN

Glasgow, Scotland – In a tough match against Wales, the SPAR Baby Proteas just managed to sneak in a win, despite a disastrous third quarter.

Off to a good start, the SPAR Baby Proteas were playing well as a team. Knowing that it was their goal circle play that had let them down in previous matches, they were focused on consistency and accuracy under the post, as well as turning over balls; “We knew that Wales didn’t miss, so we needed to turn balls before they went into the circle” said Coach Dorette Badenhorst after the game. “There is still room for improvement in our goal circle, but I think the girls played very well today.”

Despite leading by a number of goals in the first and second half, ending half time with a score of 30-23, it was some changes in the third quarter that almost cost the South Africans the match. “It was a tough game” said Badenhorst, “I made some changes in the third quarter and they didn’t work.”

Wanting to rest wing attack Izette Lubbe, Badenhorst changed around player combinations, but this negatively impacted the rhythm of play and allowed Wales to gain momentum and score a number of goals, ending the third quarter just one goal behind at 37-38.

Further changes again changed up the game, as the SPAR Baby Proteas got their game back in a gutsy final quarter, eventually stretching out the lead to end off on a 54-48 win. “I am happy with fifth place” said Coach Dorette Badenhorst. “We drew a tough pool, but we played well. I do still think we can play in the top four in the world, and give Jamaica and England a go!”

Netball South Africa President Mimi Mthethwa said that she was happy with the team’s overall performance; “We are very pleased, and coming here we have at least achieved one of our goals; improving our ranking from 9th to 5th. Playing in a tournament like this is a good platform not only to work on different combinations, but to prepare the players for matches against the toughest teams in the world.”


RECORDS TUMBLE AT 10KM CHALLENGE

Pretoria South Africa - Mapaseka “Speedsta” Makhanya romped home in a record 33.37 minutes to win the Pretoria leg of the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at SuperSport Park on a chilly Saturday afternoon.
Her emphatic victory means the Transnet runner is virtually assured of winning the SPAR Grand Prix prize of a Nissan Micra car after the Johannesburg leg of the Challenge series in October.

A jubilant Mapaseka Makhanya of Transnet crosses the finish line first in the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge on Saturday at SuperSport Park in a record winning time of 33:37. Picture by Reg Caldecott


Last year’s Grand Prix winner, Rene Kalmer, finished second in 33.56 and her Nedbank teammate, Irvette van Zyl (formerly Van Blerk) was third, in 34.21. Rutendo Nyahora (Nedbank) was hot on her heels, in 34.32.
The first four all broke the record (34.50) set by Kalmer in 2011.
“I had a great run,” said Makhanya.
“Rene and I ran together for a while, but I pulled away from her at about five and a half kilometres. It was quite a tough course – hilly and windy – but I was quite comfortable until the last two kilometres, which were downhill and really hard on my legs.
“But when you win, you forget about all the discomfort,” she beamed.
Kalmer, who was coming back from an injury that she sustained during the Boston Marathon, said she was happy with her run.
“I wanted to make the top three, and I did,” she said.
“My time was a minute faster than last year, and I really feel I’m back in the groove, after a year of injury and illness.”
Van Zyl, also a former Grand Prix winner, has also been plagued with injury, and had to withdraw from the World Championships marathon in Moscow earlier this month because of knee problems, and she was delighted with her third place.
“I had a great day today,” she said.
“I’ve had so many problems with injuries – my knee, and a foot that goes numb – but today I was able to run the whole race without stopping. Third today was like a win for me. My knee is fine and I’m having treatment for the numb foot, so I can control it now.”
Van Zyl said she had been in about 20th position at the start of the race.
“I slowly caught them up, one by one. At about seven kilometres, I caught up with Rutendo Myahora, and she didn’t want me to pass her, but then I was able to pull away from her at about seven kilometres.”
Makhanya is best known as a track runner, and is aiming to move up from 800 metres to 1500 and 5000 metres. She is also planning preparing to run a marathon early next year.
“My heart is still on the track, but I love these races, and I have worked very hard to win the Grand Prix. I really feel I’ve earned it,” she said.


SPAR BABY PROTEAS TO CONTEND FOR 5TH PLACE AT WORLD YOUTH CHAMPS

Glasgow, Scotland – In one of the more predictable matches of the World Youth Netball Championships, the SPAR Baby Proteas beat Barbados 59-20 to move into the 5th place playoff.

Unlike the last two teams that South Africa has come up against, Barbados started off slowly, giving the SPAR Baby Proteas ample opportunities to intercept and score off their centres. South African goal attack Lisa-Marie Wiese was quick on her feet, making a number of such intercepts, and goal keeper Zandre Kruger had a great game. South Africa led by 17 goals to 4 by the end of the first quarter.

The SPAR Baby Proteas picked up the pace slightly in the second quarter as they played well as a team. They maintained majority possession of the ball, turning over a number of the Barbados plays once again, and ending at half time with 35 goals to 10. Barbados continued to give the South Africans room to play in, which allowed them to widen the gap even more in the third quarter, scoring a further 13 goals to Barbados’ 4. The last quarter was no different, as the SPAR Baby Proteas maintained their lead in an easy win.

“The girls came back well, and had an excellent match” said South African coach Dorette Badenhorst in a post-match interview. “The shots went in, the defence was brilliant. The SPAR Baby Proteas are back!”

On court two, a hotly competitive match ensued between Wales and Trinidad and Tobago, which would pin one of them up against South Africa on Saturday. After a very tight game, Wales just managed to sneak ahead, taking the game by 61 goals to 54.

Looking ahead of the match, coach Badenhorst said; “Wales is a very good team, who are physically strong. We need to be at our best, and will try our best to take fifth place.”

The SPAR Baby Proteas will take on Wales on Saturday 31 August at 12h30 Glasgow time.


CHANI SCHEEPERS READY, FIRED UP AND CAN’T WAIT FOR HER US OPEN SECOND ROUND

New York, USA - Chani Scheepers, the darling of South African tennis is eager to take to court tonight for her second round US Open clash against former world number 1, Caroline Wozniacki. The match will open the evening procedures at 19h00 New York time (01h00 SA time Friday morning) in the Arthur Ashe Stadium, the show court of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre.

The 29 year old from Harrismith in the Free State said last night that she was “excited “ to be playing in Arthur Ashe for a night match. “There is always such a great atmosphere at the night matches so I’m looking forward to experiencing that for the first time on one of the greatest tennis courts on earth.”

US Open officials are expecting a sell-out crowd of 23 200 for tonight’s evening session.

It will be a tough challenge for Scheepers as 6 seeded Wozniacki, ranked 8 in the world presently has recently found the good form that took her to the world’s top spot for two consecutive seasons in 2010 and 2011. This year, Wozniacki reached the finals of Indian Wells (lost to Sharapova) and semi-finals on New haven, Eastbourne and Dubai.

However, the good form has not intimidated a confident Scheepers. “I’ve played Caroline once before last year in Beijing and it was a close match so it should be another good battle tonight.”
In that Beijing match, Wozniacki edged Scheepers 7-5 6-7 6-2 in a three hour battle also on hard court.

Scheepers said that she felt good about her game going into the second round. “I was happy to get through the first round. The first round is always tough and playing a fellow South African is never easy. Chanel Simmonds had a great tournament coming through qualies and it’s nice to see another South African starting to reach the top levels of tennis. I made a nervous start against Chanel but once I found my rhythm I felt good out there and was striking the ball well and confidently. Let’s hope I can take some of that game into tonight’s match.”

The match will be televised live on SuperSport 2 and SSHD2 at 01h00 Wednesday morning.


NO SHOOTING STARS FOR SPAR BABY PROTEAS

Glasgow, Scotland – In a gritty quarterfinal match of the World Youth Netball Championships, the SPAR Baby Proteas lost any hope that they had of coming home with a medal.

SPAR Baby Proteas Rochelle Lawson in action against England in their quarterfinal match of the World Youth Netball Championships being played at the Emirates arena in Glasgow, Scotland.

SPAR Baby Proteas Vice-Captain Simphiwe Sithebe fights for the ball in a gritty quarterfinal match against England in the World Youth Netball Championships.
Pictures by: Tom Roberts, Planet Netball


The first quarter against England was intense and fast, with both sides forcing errors from the opposition, only to throw the ball away moments later. South Africa appeared to be calm and collected, making the most of intercept opportunities.

The SPAR Baby Proteas led the way as England matched them goal for goal, until finally overtaking them, and when the whistle blew South Africa was only two points behind with 10 goals to 12.

The second quarter proved to test England as their wing attack was injured only twenty seconds in, and had to get taken off court. England was forced to pick up their defence, and as the SPAR Baby Proteas struggled to get the ball through the net, they began to run away with the lead, doubling their goals from 12 to 24 whilst South Africa only scored 5 more.

Despite another injury just before half time, the England team showed up for the second half more determined than ever, and whilst the South African mid court played well, their shooters let them down. “We didn’t keep our possession” said Coach Dorette Badenhorst after the game. “We can’t beat the best if our goal average is 63%. We turned enough balls to beat them, but our shots weren’t going in.”

The SPAR Baby Proteas continued to play hot and cold for the duration of the match, as they managed to turn balls, but were unable to convert them into goals. The England side feasted on this, and ended the match with a 45-33 win.

England will go on to play Australia in the semi-finals tomorrow, and are planning on giving it their all; “We are so happy to be into the semis, that was what we came here to do” said Captain Natalie Haythornthwaite after the match. “We knew this wasn’t going to be an easy match but I couldn’t be prouder of our team. We will go out fighting tomorrow!”

A very emotional South African Vice-Captain Rochelle Lawson was disappointed, but is looking ahead to their fifth place playoff against Barbados tomorrow; “We lost focus, we could have done better, but tomorrow we are going to fight and give it our all.”

The SPAR Baby Proteas will play Barbados for fifth position on Thursday 29 August, at 15h45 Glasgow time.


SIMMONDS DELIGHTED WITH HER FIRST GRAND SLAM EFFORT

New York, USA - On court 15 at the US Open in New York late on Tuesday, the South African flag was flying high. South Africa’s top female tennis players, Chani Scheepers (ranked 85 in the world) and Chanel Simmonds (ranked 165 in the world) were drawn to battle against each other in the opening round of the last tennis major of the year.

Chanel Simmonds

Chani Scheepers
Picture credit: Gallo images


For Scheepers it was a “crunch” match as she has battled this year with injury. Her ranking has slipped out of the top 60 and the 29 year old is desperate to end the season on a high note.

For Simmonds, the 21 year old Kempton Park rising star had nothing to lose. Simmonds had played well to qualify for her first Grand Slam and was relishing the opportunity of playing Scheepers.

The two had never played each other before and there was much anticipation about the result.
Scheepers won the match 2-6 6-2 6-2 in one hour thirty-nine minutes.

Simmonds said that New York had been good for her that she had impressed herself, especially in the qualifying rounds. “I played a very good match in the opening round of qualifying (vs. Renata Voracova (Cze), won 7-5 7-5), a tight match where I won important points. Going into my second round qualies, I felt confident, and even though my opponent (Nina Bratchikova (Rus), won 6-0 6-2) was carrying an injury I was pleased with the way I played and won the match. In the final round qualies, I played what was probably the biggest ‘grind’ match of my life. Playing an American (Taylor Townsend (USA), won 6-2 2-6 7-5) in New York is never easy as you have to play the player and the crowd. I had to fight back from 1-4 down in the decider against Taylor to win and qualify, so that felt real good.”

Against Scheepers, Simmonds said she had started well and found it hard to believe that she had won the opening set 6-2 in less than 30 minutes. “I played so well in that opening set! The two very long games in the second set which I lost changed the momentum and gave Chani the confidence to split sets and run away as the winner.”

Scheepers was pleased to have won the match. “It was a big opening match. When I saw we had drawn each other I knew it was going to be a crunch match. Chanel is playing some great ball and got to the final of the Soweto Open on the hard courts which she likes, so for me, it was a good win, especially coming back from a shaky and nervous start. Chanel is a great striker of the ball and has a great future ahead of her.”

Scheepers said it was great that Simmonds had qualified for the US Open; “For far too long I have been the lone South African woman carrying the rainbow flag in the singles at the majors. I’m happy that Chanel has made this breakthrough, and I think it is great that Chanel and I could represent our country, not only in the major, but at the same time! I hope to see her in more majors.”

In the second round; Scheepers will play against former world number 1, Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark; the tournament’s 6th seed.


SPAR BABY PROTEAS BATTLE IT OUT AGAINST AUSTRALIA

Glasgow, Scotland – Despite putting in a good effort the SPAR Baby Proteas were no match for Australia in their final pool game of the World Youth Netball Championships, being played at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow. It was evident that the Australian players were more at home on court, as they edged further and further into the lead, finally defeating the girls in green and gold 59-27.

SPAR Baby Proteas goal attack Danelle Willemse, who had a brilliant game, out-jumps Australian goal defence Joanna Weston, during their match at the World Youth Championships, played on Tuesday.
Picture by: Tom Roberts, Planet Netball


Off to a slow start, the South Africans lost their first centre to Australia who ran away with the ball. Both teams made a number of errors, but SA particularly doing so as they approached their goal circle, losing opportunities at scoring. The Australians gave them no room to move as they marked the SPAR Baby Proteas with physical play, allowing them only four goals to their 13.

The second quarter continued in a similar manner as the fast and quick Australians charged ahead. “Australia is very fast” said Vice-Captain Rochelle Lawson after the game. “This is something that we can work on.” The SPAR Baby Proteas struggled to keep ball in hand, and Australia had sunk 9 goals before South Africa had touched their net. The half-time score was 32-10.

After a motivating half-time talk by team coach Dorette Badenhorst, the SPAR Baby Proteas reappeared as a different team. “I told them to set a target for each quarter, and that we were not going to quit. We needed to keep fighting, the game wasn’t over yet!” South Africa was first to score and appeared to be playing more as a team. The combination of goal shooter Danelle Willemse and goal attack Mari-Lena Joubert was very strong. Goal keeper Shadine van der Merwe was superb on defence, turning over a number of the Aussie balls, and only allowing Australia to score one more goal than her team in the third quarter.

However, the last quarter of the game wasn’t as hopeful, as the SPAR Baby Proteas started to tire. Despite keeping up the fight, and forcing a few errors, the strength of the Australian team proved too tough. The last few minutes saw the South Africans make a number of errors, and Australia dominated scoring 16 goals to South Africa’s 7.

“At one stage we played very good netball, but we need to play more as a team” said Dorette Badenhorst after the match. “We lost our possession along with our confidence. It was tough out there, and they [Australia] are physically very strong. We waited for the umpires to blow the whistle but it didn’t happen. We need to be a bit more physical in our game.”

When asked about the Quarterfinal match against England tomorrow, Badenhorst said her team was ready; “We’ve got a tough game coming up. But we are going to go for the win. We are really going to prepare well and hope for the best.”

The SPAR Baby Proteas will take on England in the Quarterfinal on Wednesday at 8pm, Glasgow time.


MAKHANYA HAS HER EYES ON THE PRIZE

Pretoria, South Africa - With two SPAR Women’s 10km races to go, Mapaseka Makhanya appears to have one hand on the keys to a new Nissan Micra. The car will be handed over to the runner with the most points in the SPAR Grand Prix at the end of the five race series.

Mapaseka Makhanya after finishing the Cape Town leg of the SPAR Women’s Challenge, at Greenpoint Stadium in March this year.
Picture by: Reg Caldecott


However, Makhanya will be aware that she still has some work to do to make absolutely sure that the car is hers to drive away.

Among those breathing down her neck are last year’s winner, Rene Kalmer, and her sister, Christine. Rene Kalmer was plagued by injury and illness earlier this year, and was not the dominant force she normally is. She had to withdraw from the Port Elizabeth race because of a calf injury she sustained in the Boston Marathon. But she says she is back to her best and intends trying to wrestle the keys away from Makhanya.

“My training is going well, and I’m feeling very good,” she said. “I lost a bit of ground in the Grand Prix because I couldn’t run in Port Elizabeth, but I am aiming for a top three Grand Prix finish – and if things go well in Pretoria on Saturday and in Johannesburg in October, who knows what could happen.”

Makhanya currently tops the Grand Prix ladder, with 67 points, and her nearest rival is Christine Kalmer, with 48. “Christine is running very well at the moment,” said Rene Kalmer.
“She gives me a good go at training, and she really could challenge for the top spot. Mapaseka is running very well, so she’s going to be hard to beat, but Christine has gained so much confidence and she’s a very different athlete this year from what she was a year ago. She really has a good chance of overturning Mapaseka’s Grand Prix lead on Saturday.”

Former Grand Prix winner Irvette van Zyl and Myrette Filmater are in joint third place, with 40 points, and Rene Kalmer and Nolene Conrad are in fifth place, with 34. They are followed closely by Jenna Challenor and Diana-Lebo Phalula, with 33 each.

So while Makhanya can be reasonably confident of emerging as the ultimate Grand Prix winner, the battle for valuable Grand Prix points will ensure an exciting race at the Pretoria SPAR Women’s Challenge at Supersport Park on Saturday afternoon. The Grand Prix runner-up receives R30 000 and the athlete with the third most points takes home R17 500.


NAMIBIA NO MATCH FOR THEIR AFRICAN OPPONENTS

Glasgow, Scotland – Despite putting in a good effort, Namibia was no match for the SPAR Baby Proteas, who have not yet lost a match in the World Youth Netball Championships.

SPAR Baby Proteas centre player Izette Lubbe in action against Namibia on Monday 26 August.
Picture by: Picture by: Tom Roberts, Planet Netball


South Africa were the first to score off a Namibian centre, and continued in this manner for majority of the first quarter. Four goals were scored in under two minutes, and Namibia could barely get their hands on the ball. The SPAR Baby Proteas appeared confident on court and played a lot of short sharp passes, moving the ball quickly into their goal circle.

Namibia on the other hand appeared shell shocked, and were making a number of errors, often throwing past their own players with long, high passes. By the end of the first quarter Namibia had only managed to score four goals to South Africa’s 28.

The second quarter saw much better netball being played by the Namibians. They increased their score by a further eight goals to South Africa’s five. Whilst their play was more concentrated, it was clear to see that they were leaving many an open space for the South African team to play into.

In the second half of the match both teams upped their game, and the South Africa used their height advantage once again, often stretching past their Namibian counterparts. Although getting the ball into the goal circle more often, the Namibians often took two attempts to sink a ball, slowing down their options of scoring. However, they did manage to sink more goals by the end of the third quarter, and trailed behind South Africa by 22 goals to 53. South Africa played into the gap, and ended the match 71-27.

Always aware of a physical match against an African country, Coach Dorette Badenhorst said that her team could have adapted quicker; “It is always tough playing against an African country. Namibia played well and we made a lot of mistakes.”

Tuesday’s game poses the biggest threat to the girls in green and gold, as they take on world number two’s; Australia. Vice-Captain Rochelle Lawson says that her team is ready; “Every game is a learning curve, but we are ready for tomorrow. We have been analysing the team and working hard. The team is positive.” Coach Badenhorst has a similar attitude; “Tomorrow is going to be a tough game. We are dedicated, motivated and are going in for the win.”

The SPAR Baby Proteas take on Australia at 15h00 Glasgow time on Tuesday 27 August.


SPAR BABY PROTEAS THRASH ISRAEL

Glasgow, Scotland – In their second match of the World Youth Netball Championships, the U21 South African side steam rolled their opponents, by a whopping 130 goals.

SPAR Baby Proteas Vice-Captain Rochelle Lawson in action against Isreal during their second match of the World Youth Netball Championships.
Picture by: Picture by: Tom Roberts, Planet Netball


Despite using this match as an opportunity to rest a few players, the SPAR Baby Proteas were way ahead of their Israeli counterparts. “This wasn’t my first choice line-up” said Coach Dorette Badenhorst after the match, “but the team played well and put in a good effort.”

South Africa were out to meet targets set by their coach and they blasted through the first quarter to score an amount of goals worthy of a full game; 37. Israel had not scored at all. By the time the half-time whistle blew, South Africa had almost doubled their score to 64 goals, whilst the girls in white and blue had only scored one. However, the Israeli team kept their spirits high, and remained energised throughout the match.

At the end of the third quarter, the SPAR Baby Proteas had scored 100 goals to Israel’s one, something that could also be attributed to the massive height difference in goal circle players. South Africa’s goal keeper Kefiloe Tsotsetsie measures up at 196cm, whilst Israel’s goal shooter Chava Neeman is a mere 155cm, giving Neeman a near impossible task of receiving high feeds.

The final quarter continued in a similar vein, as the SPAR Baby Proteas continued to dominate, defeating Israel 134-4.

Always keen to take lessons from each game, Coach Dorette Badenhorst is hoping the players will correct a few things before the next big clash against Namibia on Tuesday. “There are still a lot of things that we can improve on” said Badenhorst after the match, “we still need to work on our timing, good ball placement, and stronger passing.”

South Africa play fellow African’s Namibia at 17h15 Glasgow time, on Tuesday 26th August.


SPAR BABY PROTEAS BEAT BABY PEARLS IN IMPORTANT CLASH

Glasgow, Scotland - Day three of the World Youth Netball Championships began with a Group A game between two potential Quarter Final contenders; South Africa and Fiji, and it was the South Africans who came away with the win of 64 goals to Fiji’s 32.

SPAR Baby Protea Captain Simphiwe Sithebe in action against Fiji, during their first match of the World Youth Netball Championships in Glasgow.
Picture by: Tom Roberts, Planet Netball


The ‘SPAR Baby Proteas’ were quick to get going and despite a boisterous support crew for their opponents, South Africa stormed ahead to take a vast first quarter lead of 17 goals to 7. The second quarter saw a Fijian side (also known as the ‘Baby Pearls’) suddenly burst with energy. Under the leadership and example of Captain Raijieli Daveua, who’s relentless work rate earned her multiple interceptions and tips, Fiji looked energised.

However, they struggled to take the ball into their attacking third as South Africa’s mid court defence closed down their options. South Africa speedily sent the ball into GS Danelle Willemse who skilfully landed close to the post. Willemse went on to score 39 of South Africa’s goals.

Unfortunately for Fiji, they lacked some communication in their shooting circle, and a dummy pass from Afa Rusivakila which caught Unouna Rauluni off guard, was snapped up by the South Africans. South Africa lead at half time by 24 goals allowing Coach Dorette Badenhorst to make five positional changes.

Despite having some of their best moments in the third and fourth quarters, Fiji had left themselves too much to do. They lost the third quarter by just five goals and the fourth by three. A disappointing loss for the team and their fans, who’s cheering, flag waving and chanting lasted right up to the final whistle.

SPAR Baby Proteas coach Dorette Badenhorst said after the match; “This was a very important game for us to win, we are working hard to go for a medal this year, and are looking to cause some upsets in our pool.”

South Africa’s next match is against Israel on Sunday 25 August at 17h45 Glasgow time.


SPAR BABY PROTEAS WELL PREPARED FOR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

Johannesburg, South Africa - The SPAR Under-21 netball team left for Glasgow on Monday, for the world youth championships from Thursday August 22 to Saturday August 31.

L-R: Back. Mari-Lena Joubert, Izette Lubbe, Rochelle Lawson, Deancke Rohde, Lisa-Marie Wiese, Zandre Kruger and Kefiloe Tsotetsi.
Front: Simphiwe Sithebe, Bongolethu Ngobeni, Nobubele Phuza and Shadine van der Merwe.
Absent: Danielle Willemse
Picture by: Reg Caldecott.


The SPAR Baby Proteas ended their preparations with a short, but intense training camp at the High Performance Centre at Pretoria University this past weekend. In addition to physical training, the players also had a motivational session, aimed at putting them in the right frame of mind to achieve their goal of returning to South Africa with the gold medal.

The players are confident of doing well, after easily beating all the men’s teams when they took part in the men’s inter-provincial tournament in Rustenburg earlier this month, which the aim was of getting them accustomed to some very physical and robust play.

“The men provide a different perspective explained Netball South Africa (NSA) Director of Selections,” Christine du Preez. “Men’s netball tends to be very fast, which will be to their advantage when they play in the world championships,” she said.

South Africa have been drawn in Pool A, which includes Australia, Fiji, Israel and Namibia. “It’s quite a tough group,” said du Preez. “Australia and Fiji are always tough competitors, and we won’t be taking victory over Israel and Namibia for granted either. We’re hoping to get off to a good start so that we can develop some momentum.”

Under-21 coach Dorette Badenhorst said she was very happy with the team after the training camp. “Everyone is fit and well. We played two games during the camp, and made sure that everyone went back to basics. They are very upbeat, and they are peaking at exactly the right time. I am confident that we are going to do very well in Glasgow.”

SPAR Under-21 National Netball Team: Deancke Rohde, Danielle Willemse, Mari-Lena Joubert, Lisa-Marie Wiese, Bongolethu Ngobeni, Izette Lubbe, Simphiwe Sithebe (captain), Nobubele Phuza, Rochelle Lawson (vice-captain), Shadine van der Merwe, Kefiloe Tsotetsi, Zandre Kruger.


O’BRIEN JOINS DAVIS CUP SQUAD FOR SLOVENIA TIE

Johannesburg, South Africa - With neither Kevin Anderson nor the recuperating Izak van der Merwe available to play, South Africa will have one new player in their squad for the upcoming first-round playoff tie again Slovenia in Ljubljana from September 13 to 15.
Dean O’Brien, 23, will join stalwarts Rik de Voest and Raven Klaasen, along with Ruan Roelofse and Nikala Scholtz in the five-man squad announced by Tennis South Africa (TSA). This is a crucial tie as the losers will have to face Russia in the final relegation playoff to see who remains in Euro/Africa Zone Group 1 and who will drop to Group 2 next year. Victory in Slovenia will see South Africa automatically stay in Group 1.
The tie will be played outdoors on red cay at the TS Bezigrad.
Anderson, who is currently ranked 19 in the world, his highest ever world ranking, is again unavailable for the tie while Van der Merwe remains injured and has a protected ranking.
“I am very honoured and excited to be playing in Slovenia,” said O’Brien, who currently holds an ATP singles ranking of 605. “To be part of the South African Davis Cup team and to represent my country is an amazing achievement. It has been a dream and a goal of mine since I was a junior.”
De Voest is the second-highest ranked South African at 162, with Roelofse at 512 and Scholtz at 631.
Klaasen has been focusing on doubles and is currently ranked 62, coming off an all-time high of 51. This year Klaasen has had a successful alliance with Swede Johan Brunstrom and they have won three tournaments, Montpellier and Nice in France, and Heilbronn in Germany.
Roelofse is ranked 158 in doubles with De Voest at 200.
The team will be captained by John-Laffnie de Jager. “The tie will be very challenging because it is on clay and away from home,” said De Jager. “We have been hit hard with injuries with Izak and Jean Andersen out until the end of the year, but this gives Nikala and Dean an opportunity to step up to a higher level.
“I’m very happy to have Dean in the team. He forced himself into the squad with some good results. It is a young and inexperienced team but I know these guys are 100 % committed.”
South Africa and Slovenia have met just once before – last year in Soweto – which South Africa won 4-1. Both teams are in this match having lost to Poland this year. Slovenia went down 3-2 in the first round in February. South Africa had a bye through the first round and faced Poland in the second round in April and suffered a similar fate, losing 3-1.
Ian Smith, CEO of TSA wished the team all the very best. “It’s unfortunate Kevin has decided again not to play for his country, but he has his reasons and we must respect them.
On the other hand it’s great to have a new member in Dean O’Brien, who was a quarter-finalist (after been given a wild-card by TSA) at the Soweto Open. I know his teammates will welcome him to the squad and support him all the way.
“Dean was a top junior player in South Africa and has shown total commitment to his country.”


MANGAUNG WIN FIRST NETBALL TITLE IN 50 YEARS

Royal Bafokeng, South Africa - Mangaung (formerly Free State) finally got a monkey off their backs when they became netball champions for the first time in more than 50 years.

A very proud winning Mangaung Metro team, after defeating three-time defending champions Gauteng North in the SPAR National Championships final.
(L-R) Back: Maryka Holtzhausen, Mari-Lise Linde, Carine Terblanche, Karla Mostert, Iselma Parkin, Zi-Mari Smit, Michael Shaw (Trainer) and Burta de Kock (Coach).
Middle: Lauren-Lee Christians,Adelle Niemand (Captain), Sheherezide Duimpies, Ane Botha and Success Lekaba.
Front: Corne Marais (Manager) and Dakalo Tshikala.)

A smiling Adele Niemand, captain of Mangaung Metro holds her team’s trophy high after their win in over 50 years.
Pictures by: Reg Caldecott


Mangaung came from behind to beat Gauteng North 39-36 in the final of the SPAR National Championships at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace in Rustenburg on Saturday. The last time a Free State team won the national title was when Southern Free State became champions in 1961 and 1962.

Mangaung (formerly Free State) have played in six finals in the past 10 years, but until now have been on the losing side, while Gauteng North were aiming for their fourth successive title. “If you play in six finals, you’ve got to win eventually,” said a beaming Mangaung Vice-Captain, Maryka Holtzhausen.

Mangaung were first off the block in the opening quarter, during which the lead changed hands from minute to minute, with Gauteng North ending 11-9 ahead. The defending champions stretched their lead in the second quarter, and at times were as many as six goals ahead. They led 21-17 at halftime.

But the Free State team stormed back after the break, scoring eight of the first nine goals in the quarter. While Gauteng had looked the more polished side in the first half, with accurate passes and quick decision-making, the roles were reversed in the second half, with Mangaung looking self-assured and confident.

“We made a couple of positional changes at halftime, and that gave the team more space to play creatively,” said Coach Burta de Kock. Mangaung led 28-26 at the end of the third quarter. In the final 15 minutes, goals went largely according to the centre pass, and Mangaung managed to keep their noses in front.

“At one stage, I asked how long was left,” said goal attack Holtzhausen. “I was told there were two and a half minutes, and those were the longest of my life. We knew we just had to keep the ball in hand and we could do it.”

“I’m so proud of my players,” said Captain Adele Niemand, who was named player of the tournament.
“I’ve been playing for Free State for 10 years, and it’s a dream come true that we have finally won the title. It was a real team effort, and showed that all our hard work has paid off.”

De Kock said they had known the match was going to be tough, but she said the leadership on the court was what had made the difference. “The players stuck to their game plan and showed their determination. I told them they could win if they wanted to win more than they wanted to breathe. This was a fantastic outcome for a coach.”

In the play-off for third place, Dr Kenneth Kaunda (formerly North West South) beat Nelson Mandela Bay 53-44. Boland B beat Gauteng North B 39-29 to win the B-section and Ilembe beat Nkangala 40-35 to win the C-section.


GAUTENG NORTH, MANGAUNG THROUGH TO NETBALL FINALS

Royal Bafokeng, South Africa - Gauteng North and Mangaung reached the finals of the SPAR National Championships at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace after beating Nelson Mandela Bay and Dr Kenneth Kaunda (formerly North West South) respectively on Friday.

Gauteng North got off to a fairly slow start, leading by just 15 goals to 10 after the first quarter, but they were never in danger of breaking their unbeaten record at this year’s championships. At halftime, they led 27-15. They began to pile on the pressure after that, scoring 14 goals to Nelson Mandela’s eight in the third quarter, and 16 to 11 in the final 15 minutes, to take the match 57-37. Earlier in the day, they convincingly downed Western Province 57-38 in the quarterfinals, with a largely second-string team.

Mangaung also appeared to be in little trouble as they overpowered the youthful Dr Kenneth Kaunda side 50-36. They were 13-7 ahead after the first quarter, but pulled further away in each subsequent quarter, finally winning the match 50-36. “It was a very physical match, but we were always sure that we could take it,” said captain Adele Niemand. “We nearly always manage to make the finals, and this year, we are determined to win. We’ve reached a number of finals in the 10 years I’ve been playing for Free State, so eventually we have to win.

“Gauteng North are a very strong team, with five SPAR Proteas, but we are also strong, and we have three Proteas in our side. “The winner of the final tomorrow will be the team that makes the least mistakes.”

She was not concerned that Mangaung had lost to Gauteng North (49-30) in their round robin match. “It’s often an advantage to have played them earlier in the tournament,” she said. “We know what we did wrong then, and we won’t make the same mistakes again.”

Earlier in the day, there was heartbreak for Gauteng Central, who thought they had reached the semi-finals, only to learn on Thursday that a quarter-final round had been introduced. They lost to Nelson Mandela Bay in their quarter-final, but beat Western Province in their next match. They will play Boland in the play-off for fifth place on Saturday.


GAUTENG NORTH AND DR KENNETH KAUNDA TOP THEIR POOLS

Royal Bafokeng, South Africa - Gauteng North and Dr Kenneth Kaunda (formerly North West South) finished at the top of their pools at the end of the round robin section of the SPAR National Championships at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace in Rustenburg on Thursday.

There was a certain amount of confusion when it was revealed that instead of playing semi-finals, as originally scheduled, the top four teams in each pool would play quarterfinals on Friday morning, with the winners playing the semi-finals in the afternoon.

“The teams should have been told earlier,” said Netball South Africa president Mimi Mthethwa, but I have had a meeting with all the presidents of the unions involved, and they have accepted the change. It was agreed that the teams coming third and fourth in their pools should have a chance to fight for a place in the semi-finals, so as to balance the results of the pools.”

While defending champions Gauteng North have been the strongest team throughout the championships, Dr Kenneth Kaunda emerged surprise winners of Pool 2, when they beat the more favoured Gauteng Central 54-36 in one of the best matches of the day.

“They’re very young, but they succeeded because they played as a team,” said coach Dorette Badenhorst. “The majority of them are under-21 or under-19, but we have a player like former SPAR Protea Leigh-Ann Zackey to add experience,” she said. “Because they are young, they are very fit and have a lot of stamina, and can outrun and outlast teams with older players.”

Gauteng Central coach, former Protea Martha Mosoahle Sam, said her team played badly on Thursday, and this had cost them dearly. “Today was the real test, and they didn’t come to the party,” she said. “We fell behind in the first quarter, when they were ahead by 15 goals to five, and after that we were always playing catch-up. We came back strongly in the second quarter, and at one stage were just four goals behind, but Kenneth Kaunda are a good team and you can’t come back against a team like that.”

Both coaches had prepared for semi-finals, and had not expected to have to play an extra match. “It throws everything out,” said Sam. “Yesterday, we knew that the four semi-finalists would be Gauteng North, Gauteng Central, ourselves and Mangaung,” said Badenhorst. “All that had to be decided was who would play who. Now we have to play an extra match, and to play two crucial matches on the same day.”

Dr Kenneth Kaunda will play Boland in the quarter-finals, Gauteng Central will play Nelson Mandela Bat, Gauteng North will play Western Province, and Mangaung will come up against Francis Baard (formerly Griqualand West).


GAUTENG CENTRAL, GAUTENG NORTH AND DR KENNETH KAUNDA STILL UNBEATEN

Royal Bafokeng, South Africa - Nelson Mandela Bay lost their first match of the tournament when Mangaung beat them 44-33 on day three of the SPAR National Championships at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace on Wednesday.

Ane Botha of Mangaung Metro (Left) and Sameshia Esau compete for the ball in the match between Nelson Mandela Bay and Mangaung Metro during day 3 of the SPAR National Championships at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace.

SPAR Protea team members Adele Niemand of Mangaung Metro and Colleen Ferreira in action during their match played on Wednesday.


The Eastern Cape team had a slender 20-19 lead at halftime, but the Free Staters came back in the third quarter, outscoring their opponents by12 goals to nine, and then surged ahead in the final quarter, scoring 13 goals to Nelson Mandela Bay’s four.

Head coach of the national team, Elize Kotze, was not surprised by Mangaung’s victory. “They had three very good SPAR Proteas – Maryka Holtzhausen, Adele Niemand and Karla Mostert – playing for them, and that made all the difference. Maryka is an outstanding shooter, and worth 10 points in any match. They also have the experience and maturity to make a difference.”

Mangaung captain Adele Niemand said her team had had a setback on Tuesday, when they were beaten by defending champions Gauteng North, but she was very proud of the way they had bounced back. “Our confidence took a bit of a knock when we lost yesterday, but we have put that loss behind us. I think we did very well in attack, and our defence was also good.”

Nelson Mandela Bay wing defence Zanele Mdodana said a team could only win if they played consistently for the full 60 minutes. “In a tight game like this, you have to be focused all the time. Just a few seconds’ lapse in concentration and the game slips away from you,” she said. “So it will be back to the drawing board for us, but we are confident that we can still make it through to the semi-finals on Friday. There are some aspects of our play we can work on, and we will be working hard to improve our shooting.”

Meanwhile, Umgungundlovu registered their first victory, when they beat Ekurhuleni 38-29.
Last year’s finalists, Gauteng North and runners up Gauteng Central, are unbeaten so far, as are Dr Kenneth Kaunda, who play Gauteng Central on Thursday. Buffalo City, Ekurhuleni, Boland and Royal Bafokeng have yet to win a match, while Western Province have only won once.


TWO WINS FOR GAUTENG CENTRAL AND GAUTENG NORTH

Royal Bafokeng, South Africa - Gauteng Central notched up two victories in quick succession on Tuesday to give notice of their intentions at the SPAR National Championships at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace in Rustenburg.

Gauteng Central’s Mampho Tsotesti battles it out against SPAR Protea from Ekurhuleni Thuli Qegu during their first match of the day.


Last year’s losing finalists beat neighbours Ekurhuleni 44-25 in their first match, and two hours later beat Western Province 40-33. Gauteng Central dominated Ekurhuleni throughout the match, outscoring them in every quarter, but in their second match, Western Province came back strongly in the final quarter, scoring 11 goals to Gauteng Central’s three.

Gauteng Central captain, and SPAR Protea, Simnikiwe Mdaka said they were very happy with their results so far, but she felt they needed to improve their performance if they were to top their pool at the end of the round robin stage of the tournament. “It wasn’t too bad playing two games in such quick succession,” she said. “We played hard in the first game, but in the second, we were more measured and controlled. Because we were a bit tired, we slowed things down, and that was to our advantage.
“We need to be more consistent. We have had some brilliant quarters, but in some quarters, we really haven’t played well. The team that will win the championships will be the team that plays four solid quarters,” she said.

Mdaka said she expected competition to get tougher as they went along. “Our last round robin match is against Dr Kenneth Kaunda (formerly North West South) and we expect that to be very hard. “They don’t have many stars, but they are a very strong and determined young team, who work very solidly, so we’ll have to be at our best to beat them on Thursday,” she said.

Defending champions Gauteng North continued their march to the semi-finals, with convincing victories over Mangaung Metro (49-30) and Buffalo City (75-16). Dr Kenneth Kaunda, who beat Umgungundlovu 56-40, are also still unbeaten, as are Nelson Mandela Bay, who beat Royal Bafokeng 60-29. Frances Baard (formerly Griqualand West) beat Western Province 47-43 in a hard-fought match to record their first victory in the last match of the day.

Buffalo City, Ekurhuleni, Boland, Royal Bafokeng and Umgungundlovu have yet to win a match, while Mangaung have lost one and won one. Western Province have lost three matches and won one.


ZACKEY’S BACK

Royal Bafokeng, South Africa - Long-time SPAR Protea stalwart Leigh-Ann Zackey has made a welcome return to netball, two years after hanging up her boots.

Former SPAR Protea Leigh-Ann Zackey in a post-match press conference this afternoon, during the SPAR National Championships being played at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace.
Picture by: Reg Caldecott


Thirty-one-year-old Zackey retired from netball after the World Netball Championships in Singapore in 2011, but made a surprise return to the sport at the SPAR National Championships at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace in Rustenburg this week, playing for Dr Kenneth Kaunda (formerly North West South).

“What brought me back? Dorette Badenhorst,” laughed Zackey. Badenhorst is the Dr Kenneth Kaunda coach, and Zackey has been helping her as assistant coach, particularly when Badenhorst, also the national Under21 coach, is away on national duty.

“I have really connected with the girls, and have been having fun with them, so when Dorette suggested I play with them, I thought “why not”. They are a wonderful group of players – they have their feet firmly on the ground, and they have such passion for the game. They are thrilled to have me in the team and I am really enjoying playing netball again,” she said.

“When I played for Gauteng North, they had a number of SPAR Proteas in the team, but Kenneth Kaunda are an underdog team, and I am loving playing with them. “I always said I didn’t miss playing netball, but I got goose bumps when I stepped onto the court on Monday.”

Zackey admitted that the prospect of playing in the proposed Netball Premier League (NPL), which Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula has said will be under way by the end of this year, was also an incentive for a return to the sport. “I took part in trials for the North West NPL team, and was accepted. It’s a great incentive to get back into netball, and I think it will do wonders for the standard of netball in South Africa. “The more competitive netball we play, the better we will all become,” she said.

Zackey did not rule out trying to regain her position as goalkeeper or goal defence in the SPAR Proteas squad. “I know I will have to train a lot harder and get a lot fitter, but I am prepared to put in the hard work,” she said. “Playing here is just the first step on the ladder. We’ll see how far I can go.”
Zackey said age was not necessarily a factor. “There is not really an age limit. Some of the overseas teams have players who are nearly 40. What you lose in mobility, you make up in experience,” she said.

Asked about her team’s prospect at the championships, Zackey said they were definitely aiming for gold. “There is no point if you don’t aim high,” she said. “We are planning to finish top of our pool, and then win our semi-final.”


GAUTENG NORTH STEAMROLL ROYAL BAFOKENG

Royal Bafokeng, South Africa - Gauteng North got their title defence off to a brilliant start when they over-powered Royal Bafokeng 82-18 in their opening match at the SPAR National Netball Championships in Rustenburg on Monday.

Gauteng North Goal Keeper, and SPAR Protea Vanes-Mari du Toit in action during their game against Ro
Gauteng North Goal Keeper, and SPAR Protea Vanes-Mari du Toit in action during their game against Ro

Gauteng North Centre (vice-captain) and SPAR Protea, snatches the ball from Royal Bafokeng’s Star Dlwati in one of the first matches of the day at the SPAR National Championships, played at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace.
Pictures by: Reg Caldecott


The hosts managed just one goal to Gauteng North’s 28 in the opening quarter, and by halftime, the defending champions were leading 46-6. Gauteng North surged to a 67-12 lead at the end of the third quarter.

“We’re very happy with the result, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement,” said Gauteng North captain Rozanne Matthyse. “There were a lot of unforced errors, and we need to prevent those when we come up against the stronger teams.”

In 2012, the SPAR Proteas were withdrawn from the provincial teams to prepare for the inaugural Diamond Challenge, but this year they are playing for their provinces once again, and Matthyse said this made an enormous difference. “Vanes-Mari (du Toit) and Erin Burger were outstanding. They both turned a lot of balls and they lifted the whole team. It was wonderful to have our Proteas back again.

“Because we were in such a strong position, we were able to make a number of changes during the match, while we tried out different combinations. This helps the coach to decide which players are the best options when we play stronger teams.”

Gauteng North’s next match is against Mangaung Metro (formerly Free State) and Matthyse expected that match to be much tougher. “They have a lot of senior players, including some SPAR Proteas, and we will have to be on our toes to beat them,” she said.

Royal Bafokeng were not disheartened by their thrashing. “It was wonderful to play against them and we learnt a lot,” enthused goal attack Eileen van Zyl. “We believe we can come back strongly and we are aiming for a top three placing.”

In other A-Section matches on the opening day, Mangaung beat Buffalo City 54-28 and Western Province beat Ekurhuleni 54-38. Nelson Mandela Bay beat Boland 50-40 in one of the closest matches of the day, while Dr Kenneth Kaunda (formerly North West South) overpowered France Baard (Griqualand West) 71-26. Last year’s runners-up, Gauteng Central, beat Umgungundlovu 47-29.


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SIMI NAMED BRAND AMBASSADOR

Johannesburg, South Africa - Centre court player Simnikiwe Mdaka is one of the shining stars of the SPAR South African netball team.

Simi addressing guests on behalf of the SPAR Proteas, at the renewal of SPAR’s sponsorship of netball earlier this year.
Picture by: Reg Caldecott


Last year, ‘Simi’, as she is known to her team mates, was named centre court player of the tournament at the SPAR National Championships at the University of Johannesburg, and now she has been accorded another honour – she has been named a Tsogo Sun Hotels brand ambassador.

Mdaka, a graduate of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, is no stranger to accolades, both professionally and as a netballer. But she is very excited about being named a brand ambassador for Tsogo Sun Hotels. “I’m ecstatic about it. It is a first for netball and a wonderful opportunity to tell people about netball and what a wonderful game it is,” she enthused.

“Netball is finally being put on the map. Netball South Africa have a fantastic partnership with Tsogo Sun, but the sports brand ambassadorships have usually been reserved for sports like cricket, soccer and rugby. So this is a great breakthrough for women’s sport, and for netball in particular,” she said.

“Part of my job as brand ambassador will be to attend and possibly speak at designated Tsogo Sun functions, and will give me the opportunity to promote the sport we all love so much.” Mdaka, who plays for Gauteng Central, will be one of more than 650 players who will be in action at the SPAR National Championships at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace in Rustenburg next week.

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