THE annual SPAR Netball national championship once again produced a high level of competitiveness having various teams competing for top laurels.
The championship was held from August 5 to 10 at the University of Johannesburg ( UJ) netball courts hosting the provincials’ u-21 and senior teams. The finals were played at the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) sport halls on Saturday.
Tshwane enjoyed a fruitful week keeping a clean sheet when they beat Dr Kenneth Kaunda in both the u-21 and senior finals.
In the senior competition, defending champions Tshwane made it two in a row when they beat Dr Kenneth Kaunda 52-48.
It was a match in which neither side had the upper hand until the second period of extra time, when Tshwane outplayed the North West side.
Tshwane took the early lead and were four goals ahead before Dr Kenneth Kaunda caught up and then passed them in the second quarter. At the end of the first quarter, Tshwane were 14-11 ahead, but Dr Kenneth Kaunda won the second quarter 13-9 to lead 24-23 at half time. Tshwane won the third quarter 7-6, and Dr Kenneth Kaunda the fourth 10-9.
Dr Kenneth Kaunda appeared to be heading for victory until the final minutes of the last quarter when Tshwane once again closed in on them to draw level on 40-all, scoring the crucial equaliser in the last 30 seconds of regular play.
The lead changed hands constantly throughout the match and the teams were never more than five goals apart. Dr Kenneth Kaunda’s defensive team of Simone Rable and Monique Reynecke, who had appeared impregnable during the round robin stage of the tournament, appeared to be mere mortals once again, while Akosua Mensah (GD) and Jasmine Ziegelmeier (GK) were outstanding at the other end of the court. Mensah, in particular, succeeded with some dazzling turnovers.
But it was Tshwane’s shooters who made all the difference. Goalshooter Venetia Grobler scored 31 goals from 35 attempts, and goal attack Chantelle Swart 21 from 27, whereas the Dr Kenneth Kaunda shooters struggled to get the ball in the net, even from under the post. Chante Louw (GS) scored only 35 goals from 52 attempts and Elsunet du Plessis (GA) 12 from 27.
In the centre court, Tshwane captain Tshina Mdau had a very good game in the pivotal role of wing attack.
It had been a rough week for Tshwane, starting with the news that their charismatic coach, Jenny van Dyk, had had to go into hospital for emergency surgery. They also suffered two defeats in the round robin stage, going down to Dr Kenneth Kaunda and Mangaung.
Stand-in coach Sone Mokken said she thought the defeats had been good for the team.
“It brought them down to earth and made them realise that they had to work hard for victory. They made mistakes in the final, but they kept coming back. We had developed a strategy to deal with Dr Kenneth Kaunda’s amazing defensive pair and it worked,” said Mokken.
“We just kept pushing and fighting for every point,” said Mdau.
“I think having the experience of winning a final helped, and we kept our composure.”
Dr Kenneth Kaunda coach Elsje Jordaan said she was massively disappointed, after being unbeaten in the round robin stages.
“Unfortunately, when your shooters are off target, it’s very hard to win. It was also our first final for some time, and the first time we have had to play extra time,” said Jordaan.
“Tshwane know how to win a final. But I am very excited about this team, and I have some very good u-21 players coming up.”
Earlier, Tshwane beat Dr Kenneth Kaunda 37-34 to make it a clean sweep.
In the play-offs for the third place, Mangaung beat Nelson Mandela Bay 60-30 to win the senior bronze medal and Cape Town beat Johannesburg 54-35 in the u-21 section.