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Six teams will be competing in Division 1 during the 2021 Telkom Netball League from 5-12 September in Pretoria and 9-17 October in Rustenburg. All these captains will be rearing to go and lead their team to the coveted title of Telkom Netball League Champions. But who will it be? We’ll only know Sunday 17 October.

Gauteng Jaguars
Captain: Marlize de Bruin (Marlize de Bruin would aim to guide her team to a fifth consecutive trophy win. She was a member of the winning teams from 2017 to 2020. Last year she earned three Player of the Match awards)
Vice-Captains: Akosua Mensah and Chantelle Swart

Free State Crinums
Captain: Sikholiwe Mdletshe (Sikholiwe Mdletshe’s top form in last year’s TNL earned her a first SPAR Proteas cap soon after. She led the Kovsies to the Varsity Netball crown in August. It will be her fourth TNL)
Vice-Captain: Ané Retief

Gauteng Golden Fireballs
Captain: Lungile Mthembu (Having played for the Jaguars from 2015 to 2020, Lungile Mthembu will now lead the Fireballs. She will compete in her 6th TNL)
Vice-Captains: Jo Prins and Chanté Louw

Western Cape Southern Stings
Captain: Abeline Olivier Laubscher (It is Abeline Olivier Laubscher’s sixth tournament in a row and her second as captain, having first skippered them in 2019)
Vice-Captain: Shannen Bartlett

North West Flames
Captain: Monique Reyneke (Monique Reyneke will again wear the captain’s armband in her 7th tournament. She is one of only a handful of SPAR Proteas participating this year)
Vice-Captain: Didintle Keebine

KwaZulu-Natal Kingdom Stars
Captain: Precious Mthembu (At age 37 Precious Mthembu is not done with the TNL yet. She was there right from the beginning in 2014. It is her third year as leader of the Stars)
Vice-Captain: Nomfundo Mngomezulu

How has your preparations been for the upcoming TNL?

Marlize de Bruin (Gauteng Jaguars): We had to adjust our preparation since Varsity Netball was scheduled right before TNL. We worked in a lot of quality session before Varsity Netball started and only needed to bring everything together before the TNL tournament.

Sikholiwe Mdletshe (Free State Crinums): The preparations have been going well, we have had time to work on our combinations despite the regulations that hampered preparations from time to time.

Lungile Mthembu (Gauteng Golden Fireballs): Preparations have been good, challenging as well, which is good for the team as we’ve become familiar with what we need to focus on – strengths and weaknesses.

Abeline Olivier Laubscher (Western Cape Southern Stings): Our preparation for TNL has been focused and technical. Our coaches had to plan well as we started training in April and due to the COVID circumstances we had to adapt. Luckily we have an experienced coaching staff as well as an excellent physio who guided us at all times.

Monique Reyneke (North West Flames): Definitely a big challenge as some key experienced players had to withdraw from the team due to academical and national duty responsibilities and injuries. But with that being, said we are well aware of the fact that we are not the only team that has to push through these tough times, as sport is unpredictable. With regards to training sessions, we were very restricted with preparation of back-to-back tournaments, as most players are in Varsity and were preparing for the past Varsity Cup Tournament and the working schedule of the other players.

Precious Mthembu (KwaZulu-Natal Kingdom Stars): Even though COVID has affected all spheres of the world which has been a major hindrance in our preparations; we have learnt to adapt to a lot of changes and our biggest obstacle has been to make sure all players stay optimistic in whatever we do. This year we have a new coach who has brought in new dynamics to the game. We have also had several training camps together as a team. Certainly, overwhelming to see new young players coming through, thank you to the KZN Superleague for producing these young players.

What will your team be looking at improving or implementing at this year’s TNL?

Marlize de Bruin: We would like to grow in each and every combination we play on court and get the momentum going. We want to build our structures in the ‘first bubble’ so that we as a team can play consistent netball from the get-go in the ‘second bubble’.

Sikholiwe Mdletshe: Well, I believe for us it’s always about playing quality netball in every game and fighting to the last minute, we would want to build on that from last year and working on improving our championship mindset.

Lungile Mthembu: We will be looking at gelling nicely as a team and with certain combinations too. We’re working toward each other’s strengths in becoming a strong unit with the hopes of being able to execute our game plans flawlessly.

Abeline Olivier Laubscher: Consistency. We will look to be consistent in every match and to keep the standard for 60 minutes. We are also looking to enjoy every second on court and to play for each other as well as for God.

Monique Reyneke: The key focus will be on the growth aspect and gaining as much experience as possible.

Precious Mthembu: What an honor it is this year for the Stars to be coached by such an intelligent and passionate coach, Marguerite Rootman. [It is] a huge adjustment for us to be coached by a new coach and it’s very important that we maintain our style of play. We are also looking forward to taking each game at a time, going back to last year’s drawing board and focusing on our strengths as a team allowing the senior players to pull through. We will not be discouraged even though the situations might seem dull.

Who are you personally, and your team looking forward to facing on court?

Marlize de Bruin: We as a team are looking forward to facing the Crinums, as they were playing in the finals with us last year and you know it is going to be hard and good netball. I’m personally just looking forward to getting out on court and playing some netball.

Sikholiwe Mdletshe: We can’t really count anyone out in TNL, the quality of players in each team is so high. We are looking forward at facing off with the Gauteng teams, it’s always good netball play.

Lungile Mthembu: Every team, to be honest, as everyone plays a different game. It’ll be good to learn from each team and realize what we are strong or weak at.

Abeline Olivier Laubscher: We are looking forward to the first match against the Jaguars. It seems like the Southern Stings are the only team that can get under their skin.

Monique Reyneke: No team can be singled out as we look forward to achieving our goals that we as a team set for ourselves no matter who we play against.

Precious Mthembu: We are looking forward to facing all the teams. We will not undermine any team, but we’ll also not walk on court with fear. We are the Stars that shine brighter in the sky. When we will reach unfavourable conditions, we sure will use each other’s faces to shine our part in our journey.

What does it mean to play in a national tournament like the TNL?

Marlize de Bruin: For us to play in the TNL is a massive privilege to get the opportunity to play netball on a higher and competitive level. During TNL you get exposed to the highest standard of netball in our country and have the chance to showcase your talent.

Sikholiwe Mdletshe: It’s great for us, playing at such a level is something we don’t take for granted, it is an opportunity of a lifetime, and we are grateful to be part of it.

Lungile Mthembu: It’s a great opportunity, not just for me only but for the team too. It grows one as a player, it’s a great experience and we make friends…

Abeline Olivier Laubscher: It is an honour to be part of the Southern Stings team playing in this year’s TNL. The TNL is an extraordinary event that truly show cases South-Africa’s talent. We as a team are blessed and thankful to be part of the tournament.

Monique Reyneke: TNL creates the perfect platform to showcase upcoming talented players to be identified and to be included in the national team setting, to broaden the base for the SPAR Proteas team. In addition it’s added promotion for netball, not only for viewers to support netball in general but also moving forward from semi-professional to professional athletes.

Precious Mthembu: We are so grateful to get this opportunity again to step on court and compete at this level especially during COVID. Thank you so much to Netball South Africa, thank you to all stakeholders: TELKOM, PUMA, TWIZZA, SPAR, ENERGADE, DEPARTMENT OF SPORTS AND RECREATION, GILBERT, NATIONAL LOTTERIES COMMISSION, SUPERSPORT and TSOGO SUN. We can’t thank you enough for putting your hand up in supporting the top women’s sport in this country. Your interest, contribution and commitment will forever be appreciated. We as KZN Netball are so thrilled to have our sisterhood, the Kingdom Queens team also taking part in the Telkom Netball League. We are looking forward to seeing them dominate their section as they did so exceptionally well last year.

Thanks for the chat ladies and all the best of luck for the 2021 Telkom Netball League.

The 2021 TNL will be played 5-12 September in Pretoria and 9-17 October in Rustenburg in biological safe environment with no spectators allowed. Selected matches will be broadcast on SuperSport Variety 4 (DStv Channel 209)see fixtures.