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Durban, South Africa – The organizers of the SPAR national senior and Under-21 netball championships can breathe easily once again, with all systems go for the tournament which starts on Monday.

The floods in Durban last month caused some anxious moment after the courts at Hoy Park were flooded, but by last Thursday, everything was back to normal.

“We had a Plan B, but fortunately we didn’t need to use it,” Netball South Africa (NSA) chief executive Blanche de la Guerre said on Sunday afternoon.

“We waited until Thursday for a final inspection, and found that everything was in order,” she said.

“So the Championships can start as planned, at eight o’clock tomorrow morning.”

For the second year in succession, the championships will be played on a provincial basis, with the players representing their provinces rather than districts, as was formerly the case.  Twenty-two teams will take part in the senior tournament and 17 in the Under-21 championships, with A and B sections in each.

“We brought in this format in an effort to raise the standard of play,” said tournament director, Mami Diale.

“We are going to try this format for three years to see how it works, but so far we are very pleased with the new format.  We believe there has definitely been an improvement in the standard of play.“

NSA President Mimi Mthethwa said NSA was trying to promote transformation among the teams, but was operating on a target basis rather than introducing a quota system.

“We will look at the demographics in each province and our aim is to ensure that by 2018, the teams reflect the demography of their province.   But the bottom line is that we want the provinces to send their best players to the championships.  We are focusing on development rather than quotas,” she said.

North West Province had a clean sweep at the championships last year, winning the A and B sections in both the senior and Under-21 tournaments, but North West coach Julene Meyer is aware that it will not be easy to repeat this success.

“When you are the defending champions, you are the benchmark for all the other teams, who want to bring you down,” said Meyer.

“It won’t be easy, but we have prepared very well and we will play our best in every match.”

North West captain Nadia Uys said they knew there would be no easy games.

“We had a terrible disappointment in the Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League, where we won all our matches, only to fall in the semifinal, and we don’t want a repeat of that.  There are several very strong teams, like Gauteng, Free State and Western Province, and we know no game will be easy.

“There will be no arrogance from our side, but we will go hard at every game,” she said.