SPAR Proteas netball star Maryka Holtzhausen being interviewed by the SABC at the Minister's function at La Toscana, Monte Casino, an exclusive event to mark the SPAR Proteas’ African Champions crown, on Thursday, 1 August, 2013. Photo: Natasha Marot on twitter

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula came good on his promise to honour the SPAR Proteas netball team after they overcame the impossible to beat the Malawi Queens and claim the crown of African Champions last month.

The Proteas laid a ghost to rest by beating their arch-nemises Malawi 54-52 in Blantyre, to take the continental mantle of African Netball Champions after clinching a nail-bitting final.

“It was war,” recalled head coach Elize Kotze of the final, a hugely physical encounter made even more intimidating by a fiercely partisan and boisterous crowd.

At an event held to honour the SA sports stars for having excelled on the big stage, Mbalula announced at Monte Casino on Thursday evening that each SPAR Proteas player would receive R15 000 each for their efforts in Malawi.

In the words of Rhodes University’s Nobubele Phuza, Mbalula said: “We do not honour mediocrity, we celebrate and award champions. Champions that have achieved through toil and sweat…”

He also had special words of praise for the team’s sponsor, SPAR, saying: “Thank you SPAR for being the first to believe in netball.”

President of Netball SA, Mimi Mthethwa thanked Mbalula for his and SRSA’s “continued support and belief”.

A message on the SPAR Proteas Facebook page summed up the team’s feeling after being honoured by the Minister: “What an amazing evening!” said the update on the team’s page.

“Our SPAR Proteas and Baby Proteas were thrown a celebratory honorary dinner by Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula! Incentives were announced and each player walked away with a giant cheque to the value of R15 000. This is a start to bigger and better things!”