Kaylin Coetzer - Madibaz netball

Even sans a number of key players from last year, the Madibaz netball class of 2023 should have plenty to offer at the University Sports South Africa tournament, which gets underway on Monday.

The annual varsity week is hosted by Stellenbosch University from July 3 to 8.

A year ago, the Nelson Mandela University outfit excelled by finishing runners-up in the national event. However, SPAR Madibaz netball coach Lana Krige said they had lost several players from that squad.

She is banking on the return of two players – captain Mothira Mohammad and Kaylin Coetzer – from injury to provide more stability but needs the rest of the team to step up to the plate as well.

Both Mohammad and Coetzer went under the knife recently with the USSAs being their first competitive matches after undergoing rehab, and the coach is hoping to see both at full strength.

“We have several first years in our squad and the level at this week will provide them with the awareness of why they have had to work so hard,” said Krige. “Also, we have some second-year players who need to live up to their potential.”

As for the seniors, she said they needed to soar “like the eagles they are”.

The Madibaz have often gone into tournaments of this magnitude as underdogs, only to become giant slayers. Krige, for one, cannot wait to see each and every player stand up to be counted in Stellenbosch.

Kaylin Coetzer - Madibaz netball

SPAR Madibaz netball star Kaylin Coetzer returns to the squad for the University Sports SA tournament in Stellenbosch after a lengthy layoff due to injury. Photo: Supplied

The team’s mentor said they had put in a lot of work following several defeats against their peers this season.

“The players have really come to the party since then, and we have made some team changes and added some new plays.”

They trained twice a day, five days per week and included additional fitness sessions on Saturdays and Krige is hoping to reap the benefits – starting next week.

A number of unknowns await the Madibaz.

“At a university tournament, you often find that teams change dramatically from year to year,” Krige said. “The top eight teams can always be a bit of a surprise package, so we are gearing ourselves up for any challenge.”

With matches lasting an hour and the programme calling for two per day for three consecutive days, only time will tell how the team will respond.

The Madibaz will be one of six teams to compete in the super league section of the tournament, which is played in a round-robin format. The top four advance to the semi-finals.