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Jaguars, Crinums make the running in Netball Cup

The Jaguars from Gauteng North and the Free State Crinums have emerged as the front runners after the opening weekend of the long-waited Brutal Fruit Netball Cup at the University of Pretoria Sports Complex, having won both their matches.

The Commonwealth Games in Scotland are getting every closer and the Netball Cup offers our star players the opportunity to put their hands up and be part of Team South Africa in Glasgow.

Both teams top the first division log with four points each. The Golden Fireballs (Gauteng) have two points, after winning their first match and losing their second, while the Eastern Cape Aloes from the Eastern Cape and the North West Flames lost both matches played so far.  It was heartache for the Flames, who were beaten by just one goal in both matches.

Jaguars and SPAR Proteas 1.93 metre tall goal shooter Melissa Myburgh said her team was very happy with their performances but were not getting carried away. ÔÇ£We are a very young team and a very hungry team and we would home to improve in the weeks to come.ÔÇØ

In the second division, the Southern Stings were the only unbeaten side, recording victories over the Kingdom Stars and the Mpumalanga Sunbirds. The Stars and the Northern Diamonds from the Northern Cape have two points each, while the Sunbirds have yet to win a match.

Stings manager Danlee Mathews said her team were ecstatic with their start to the tournament. ÔÇ£We want to make it to division one this year so we’re eyeing that promotion spot for sure. There’s still a long way to go though.ÔÇØ

The format of Netball SA’s flagship competition, which continues over the next four weekends, means that each team play the other four teams in their division twice.┬áThe top four teams in the First Division will play against each other to determine which team will play in the final on Sunday 8 June.┬áThe top team in the second division will play a promotion/relegation match against the bottom team in the first division.

Netball SA and the management of the SPAR Proteas were very happy with the tournament so far.

ÔÇ£It’s been what we’ve needed,ÔÇØ said Netball SA President Mimi Mthethwa.┬áÔÇ£Our players need to compete at a high level on a regular basis, and the Netball Cup will attract new supporters.┬áWe are bringing school children to watch the matches, and some of the matches will be televised, which means South Africa’s biggest women’s game will get greater exposure.ÔÇØ

Head coach of the SPAR Proteas, Elize Kotze, and NSA director of selectors, Christine du Preez, are keeping an eagle eye on the players with a view to selecting the team to represent South Africa at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in July/August. All the Proteas and many of the Under-21 team are in the Netball Cup squads, and the five-week league gives them an ideal opportunity to show the selectors what they are capable of.

ÔÇ£I was a bit concerned that some of the Proteas are not as sharp as I’d like them to be,ÔÇØ said Kotze. ÔÇ£But there’s plenty netball to come, and I think we will see a remarkable improvement in all the squad players. They have a lot to play for.ÔÇØ

She said the league was also important for the weaker teams.

ÔÇ£They will learn so much from playing in this tournament.┬áThey will be exposed to some of the top players in the country, and match play provides the best experience of all.ÔÇØ

There is plenty of razzmatazz at the Netball Cup, with dancers, music and flashing lights.  Each team has its own theme, and they each have a dance they can perform before matches.

ÔÇ£It’s what we’ve longed for,ÔÇØ said Zanele Mdodana of the Eastern Aloes.┬á ÔÇ£I think some players who were thinking about retiring have continued playing because of the Netball Cup.┬á It’s the best thing that has happened for a long time.ÔÇØ

In the photo, Kingdom Stars captain and Player of the Match Bongiwe Msomi passes the ball in her team’s match against the Diamonds (Northern Cape) at the weekend.