For the second year running, Gauteng North has claimed the title of the SPAR National Netball Champions, managing to beat Free State Motheo by a narrow 37 goals to 31, at the Velodrome in Bellville, Cape Town, on Saturday, 13 August, 2011.
It was a closely-contested final match, and could have been anyone’s game, but Gauteng North were the better team in the end, and deserved to win.
2011 has been a successful year for the Gauteng North side, and this win will make it their 20th championship title and their third under coach Elize Kotze, after beating the Free State team in last year’s final and also winning in 2007.
Gauteng North were also the champions of the U/19 and U/21 tournament this year, and even sneaked the men’s title at the champs, beating Gauteng Central 40 – 34.
Without their Protea star shooter, Chrisna Bootha, Gauteng North used Vanes-Mari du Toit in the circle and she filled her shoes admirably, scoring 29 of her team’s 37 goals.
The Pretoria team came out firing and took a 3-0 lead before Motheo were able to score their first goal. The Free Staters found their rhythm, drawing level at 5-5 and the teams ended the first quarter with a draw of eight goals each.
Working with a different team rhythm due to a new goal circle, the Gauteng North team played more of a staccato game. “Our rhythm was a bit disturbed,” said Kotze, “but you have to make a plan.”
Putting up a good fight, it was in the second quarter that Motheo lost the game. They had more possession but missed goals at crucial times and went almost five minutes without scoring. Passes went astray from both teams but Gauteng North capitalised on their opponents’ mistakes and took an 18-13 lead at half-time.
Adele Niemand, voted best defence player of the tournament, controlled her team from the back and frustrated the Gauteng attack throughout the game. Motheo went ahead for the only time in the match at 19-20, and seemed to have Gauteng North on the back foot at one stage.
Motheo Centre Shirolene Smith found space and held her own against the dynamic Erin Burger, who was once again voted player of the tournament. Unfortunately though, it was once the ball was in the circle that the Motheo let themselves down again.
Both sides scored nine goals in their third quarter, but it was the seven misses to three which counted against Motheo.
Kotze said she was extremely proud of her team and admitted they had been worried about the absence of Bootha. “I think Vanes-Mari did a fantastic job. We had to adapt our attack, as we’re used to a faster game, but Vanes held her own, and will no doubt do well in world netball,” Kotze said.
With Du Toit shooting in goal, Kotze used veteran South African goalkeeper Desmarie Roux, who has 67 international caps under her belt, to take charge of her defence. “I was very excited to see how well our defence team worked together with Rozanne Matthyse as wing defence and Desmarie as goalkeeper. Rozanne and Erin also worked well together.”
Losing coach Burta de Kock said her team lacked consistency and lost a lot of possession. “Our inexperience showed out there and we just couldn’t keep the ball in hand,” said De Kock.
“We’re missing four or five of our more experienced players so we brought in our youngsters and they did well for us and gained a lot from the tournament — so I can’t ask for more.”
Ekurhuleni won the bronze medal beating Nelson Mandela Bay 56-44 while the women’s B-section was won by Amathole from the Eastern Cape, who beat Western Province B by 40-24, and Mpumalanga’s Gert Sibande, beat Western Province C by 41-29 to win the C-section.
Final Results of the SPAR National Netball Championships played at the Bellville Velodrome:
Section A:Ekurhuleni bt Nelson Mandela Bay 56-44 (3rd and 4th place decider) Gauteng North bt Free State Motheo 37-31 (1st and 2nd place decider)
Section B:Umgungundlovu bt Gauteng North 53-36 (3rd and 4th place decider) Amathole bt Western Province 40-24 (1st and 2nd place decider)
Section C:West Coast bt Griqualand West 58-29 (3rd and 4th place decider) Gert Sibanda bt Western Province 41-29 (1st and 2nd place decider)