Hanniska van Vuuren

The SPAR Madibaz Netball Tournament reached new heights when its biggest entry ever forced it to add an extra day of competition this past weekend.

Between 70 and 80 teams were expected to enter the traditional pipe-opener to the netball season in the Eastern Cape, but a swelling of entries to 93 called for some last-minute adjustments.

The biggest change, said Madibaz Sport netball manager Melinda Goosen, had been to extend the event to three days.

“As has been the case recently, we once again exceeded our entries from the previous year. We were actually considering adding an extra day, but that was only supposed to be from next year onwards.”

However, once the final numbers were in, they were forced to start on the Friday and Goosen expected it to be a three-day event going forward.

Teams from as far afield as Potchefstroom and Cape Town entered, which made for an “incredible” weekend of netball, she said.

“The vibe was amazing. The energy in and around the indoor centre on Friday night was electric and the whole weekend produced outstanding netball in all the sections.”

Goosen said one of the key functions of the tournament was to help coaches fine-tune their teams for the upcoming season and that this aspect was extremely important from a Madibaz point of view.

Hanniska van Vuuren

SPAR Madibaz player Hanniska van Vuuren controls possession during a match in the SPAR Madibaz Netball Tournament at the Nelson Mandela University’s South Campus in Gqeberha at the weekend. The event drew a record entry of 93 teams. Photo: Supplied

“Because we have lots of new and young talent this year, it was a chance for the coaches to evaluate the strength of the players.”

A lot of emphasis was placed on creating team cohesion and sorting out combinations for big events such as the USSA tournament in July and Varsity Netball in August and September, she said.

“From that point of view, it was very successful for the Madibaz coaches.”

SPAR Eastern Cape advertising manager Roseann Shadrach said they were thrilled to be involved with such a significant event.

“We experienced an incredibly successful weekend of netball in the Bay and, as the sponsors, it excites us that there is so much interest in women’s sport in our region as well as in our country ahead of the Netball World Cup [in SA],” she said.

“I feel 2023 is the year of female sport and a platform such as the SPAR Madibaz tournament is a catalyst to nurture it and the competitive level at which it is played.”

Referring to the record-breaking entry, she felt SPAR EC and Nelson Mandela University had combined to set up a winning formula.

“We have walked this journey with Madibaz netball for 11 years and it makes us proud to see that many ladies have come through this tournament and the SPAR Madibaz clinics to represent the country.”

On the court, the North-West University Eagles showed their strength by winning the A section while Framesby High School overcame University of Fort Hare by just four points in a keenly contested final in the A reserve section.

Other winners were Pearson (B), Parks (C), Young Neighbours (D) and Storm Crackers (men).