The SPAR Madibaz outfit will be banking on injecting youthful energy into their challenge when they compete in the Varsity Netball competition in Stellenbosch next month.
After last year’s tournament was scuppered by the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2021 edition will take place at the Coetzenburg Indoor Centre from August 21 to 30.
The effect of the cancellation means that coach Lana Krige has been working with a virtually new group of players as only three members of the squad have previous Varsity Netball experience.
She did not shy away from the challenges they faced and said that, despite the lockdown restrictions, the team had been working extremely hard in preparation.
“Look, it has been difficult with the stop-start nature of our lives at this stage and just when you feel you are getting some sort of momentum, the lockdown restricts your planning,” she said.
“In addition, we are dealing with a new group of players as several student-athletes, including our captain Jeanie Steyn, have moved on since the 2019 tournament.
“So we have not been exposed to the intensity of a competition such as Varsity Netball, but many other teams are in the same boat. It is what it is and we are ready to embrace the challenge.”
Those difficulties notwithstanding, Krige was impressed with the commitment the team members had shown in the build-up to the tournament.
“We don’t have massive depth, but what I can say is that the team have trained fantastically well and we do have a special group of players this year,” she added.
“Possibly the Covid-19 limitations have had something to do with this because playing netball has become something they look forward to.
“It is not something which has become a burden to fit into your schedule and this has made playing the sport enjoyable.
“There’s a different mindset and I must commend the girls on the effort they have put in during training.
“Their attitude has been fantastic; nothing is too much for them and there is no complaining when they are faced with difficult challenges.”
Krige admitted that the format would test their resilience over the nine days of competition. Matches will be played from August 21 to 25, followed by a rest day, and completed from August 27 to 30.
“In normal circumstances you would be able to ease players into a high-level competition and rely on some experienced players to manage the game-plan,” she said.
“But that is not the situation we are facing so the challenge will be how to handle the intensity of Varsity Netball and to adapt to the tactics of different opponents.
“As I said, however, it’s the same for everyone and we are obviously determined to go out and compete to the best of our ability.”
Madibaz Sport netball manager Melinda Goosen said there had been extensive planning for the resumption of Varsity Netball.
“From an administrative point of view there are a lot more boxes to tick before the team gets on the plane to travel to Stellenbosch,” she said.
“But we just focus on taking it day by day. Ensuring the safety of our players is a top priority, as we want them at their best competing against the strongest in the country.
“It will definitely be a different vibe at the matches as there will be no spectators but this is the new ‘normal’ for all teams.
“After a year behind us with little to no netball, we are excited to put our team and the players’ skills to the test.”