More than 700 of the country’s brightest netball players have descended on Emalahleni, Mpumalanga for the National U21 & U19 Netball Championships that started today.
Regional teams from across the country participate in the biggest annual tournament – which this year runs from July 8 to 13 at the General Hertzog High School to vie for the title of national champion.
Some 36 of the 46 regions affiliated to Netball South Africa will go head to head in the U21 and U19 categories. Netball South Africa (@Netball_SA; facebook.com/netballsa) will select a pool of players for the national teams and will also host a talent identification drive to unearth future players for the Spar Proteas national team.
Opening the tournament Deputy Minister of Sport and Recreation Gert Oosthuizen said netball provided an excellent foundation to fitness and social interaction. “It is our biggest and number one women’s sport in the country with more than 2million affiliates. It gives many women a chance to participate, improve personal skills, a platform, a stepping stone etc.”
“Netball is not only about ladies throwing the ball around. Netball SA and People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) have come together in a country-wide initiative to fight gender-based violence. This is the kind of substance we give to our President’s statement that “together we can do more,” said Mr Oosthuizen.
Netball SA president Mimi Mthethwa said: “We pride ourselves for having this platform for junior players to test their netball skills and abilities. We have seen over the past similar events how rich our country is with the standard of netball this is always displayed at this event. The players who will compete at this tournament this week see this as an opportunity for them to carve a career in netball.”
MEC for Culture, Sport and Recreation in Mpumalanga MNS Manana said the tournament would help to promote the status of netball and women’s sport in the male-dominated industry.
“We come from a past that saw women sport concealed and undermined, where acknowledgment of women sport was not offered and generally women’s rights were not recognized and acknowledged.”
Ms Manana said that hosting the event in a rural province outside of the major cities would help to make the sport more accessible.
“The hosting of the championships in Mpumalanga will go a long way to expose our women and girls in the province to top flight netball and encourage them to establish more clubs with the aim of having some local players in the Protea teams.