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A Madibaz squad brimming with fresh talent will face their first test when the annual SPAR Madibaz Netball Tournament takes place in Gqeberha on March 18 and 19.

This highly popular pipe-opener to the season will be played at the Nelson Mandela University’s South Campus and Madibaz Sport netball manager Melinda Goosen said they expected another weekend of high-class netball.

With South Africa hosting the World Cup later this year, the sport has been riding a wave of popularity across the country and this event was no different, said Goosen.

“At Madibaz we are particularly excited about the upcoming season as we have been privileged to receive a big influx of talented first-years and our coaches are extremely eager to work with them.

“Admittedly, we have a young squad but there is plenty of fire, determination and talent in our ranks.”

Goosen said the tournament provided coaches with an opportunity to test the make-up of their squads and to finalise teams. It also gave them insight into the strengths of their players and what to work on.

Entries had once again reached the maximum for a two-day competition – between 70 and 80 – and Goosen was delighted at the turnout

“We might have to consider extending it to three days in the future, but for now we are very happy.”

Apart from clubs from all over the Eastern Cape, teams from as far as North-West University had entered, she confirmed.

“It is a great opportunity to face different opposition and that adds a competitive edge to the whole weekend.”

Besides the various local competitions, Goosen said the Madibaz tournament marked the start of the club’s preparations for events such as the University Sport South Africa week in Stellenbosch from July 3 to 8 and Varsity Netball in August and September.

Taking into consideration how netball had become a female focused sport in the country, SPAR advertising manager Rose Shadrach said the family retailer was proud to continue its involvement.

“Many Eastern Cape players have gone on to reach national honours, so for us as a brand it’s incredible to be part of this legacy.

“We have girls who were exposed to the game at our SPAR clinics in the Eastern Cape who are now representing the country.”

Shadrach hoped to reach many more children in the outlying areas of the province through this year’s clinics and looked forward to a great netball season.

The Group is also sponsoring the Proteas at the World Cup in Cape Town.