The biggest ever SPAR National Netball Championships get under way at Young Park in Port Elizabeth on Monday.
One-thousand-and-43 players representing 87 teams will participate in the Championships, which will be divided into A and B sections. There will be 12 teams in the senior A section and 13 in the Under 21 A section.
The A-sections will be divided into two pools. The first matches will be played on a round robin basis, with crossover matches later in the week. The finals will be played on Saturday.
“We decided to go back to having districts rather than provinces at the national championships, because we want to take netball back to the people,” said Netball South Africa (NSA) President Cecilia Molokwane, who will be presiding over her first national championships.
“We want to give as many people as possible the opportunity to show what they can do,” she said.
“At the end of the tournament, we will be announcing a number of squads – a Protea training squad, a President’s XII and a development squad – so that we can ensure there is always a pipeline of players.”
Molokwane confirmed that South Africa had officially handed over documents in London in support of NSA’s bid to host the Netball World Championships in Cape Town in 2023.
“We are up against Netball New Zealand, who will be celebrating their centenary in 2023. But we believe it is Africa’s time. If we win the bid, we will be hosting the biggest netball tournament in Africa’s history. It will also be the first time that South Africa hosts a women’s World Cup.”
Jenny van Dyk, coach of the Gauteng team that won the tournament last year, said she was excited about the new format.
“We aren’t actually defending our title, because it’s a different format, but we certainly didn’t come here to finish second,” said Van Dyk.
“I think our strongest opposition will come from the Cape Winelands, which is essentially the Stings, who gave us such a tough match in the Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League final. But there are new districts and we are not sure who will be playing where, and so every game is going to be exciting.
“It’s a new team, a new format, and a new opportunity.”