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Still on the topic of centurions. The SPAR Proteas’ Team Manager Nisha Rupnarain, recently also achieved her ‘100th cap’ managing the national team. Nisha reached this formidable milestone in the first test against Wales on 19 July 2022. She has been part of the management setup since May 2015. We spent some time with Nisha to learn more about her netball journey and highlights thus far.

Congratulations on this amazing achievement Nisha – 100 test matches as Team Manager of the SPAR Proteas. How can you describe the journey so far?
This has been undoubtedly one of the most inspiring, empowering and exhilarating journey in my sporting career. Certainly a memorable one filled with the thrill of the many victories, the agony of defeat, the courageous moments, the amazing teamwork, and the unrelenting discipline required to reach great heights. There were  moments of unforeseen circumstances and situations that challenged my abilities to the limit and tested my perseverance. However the resolute commitment, dedication, perseverance and resilience that permeates within the team,  underpinned by strong core values, made these challenges insignificant in the greater scheme of things. I am truly privileged, honoured and blessed to share this amazing journey of transformation with such talented and resilient athletes. Also my sincerest gratitude to the sponsors, SPAR, PUMA, Southern Sun, Gilbert and Telkom for their unwavering support on this journey.

Nisha acknowledged by the Welsh team for her 100th test as SPAR Proteas Team Manager.

The SPAR Proteas celebrate with Nisha on her 100th test as Team Manager on 19 July 2022.

How did your netball journey begin? How did you get into team management?
I have been a very competitive athlete from the age of seven, having excelled in various codes of sport, table-tennis, volleyball, athletics and netball.  Somehow I seemed to be more intrigued by the game of netball due to the athleticism, energy and exhilaration that prevails within the game. I tended to gravitate more to netball due to the analytical and critical mindset that was required to destabilize and defeat the opposition. At the age of 13 I co-founded the Shaldon Netball Club and went on to play competitive netball for further 28 years. Delta Callies Netball, the team I played for in the latter part of my netball career was a formidable and unbeatable team in the senior A league for more than 15 years. In my tenure I achieved the following accolades: Sportsperson of the Year, Best Midfield Player, captained the Southern Coastal team at National Championships to name a few.

My admission to team management commenced whilst I was in my teens as I had to coach, manage, umpire and play. I have always been very passionate about administrating sport and  my management expertise was further enhanced by serving in many administrative and leadership roles to name a few: National Coordinator for School Sport Mass Participation Programme, Vice President of Chatsworth and Districts School Sport, President of Chatsworth and District Netball, Projects Convenor for KZN Netball, Vice President of Umlazi District Netball, Director Coaches for KZN Netball, KZN Coach Developer and Team Manager for the Kingdom Stars Netball Team.

Receiving a scholarship in 2014 with the Women in Sport Leadership Academy in the UK funded by Females Achieving Brilliance provided me with an amazing opportunity to hone my skills amidst exceptional women from across the world who had achieved great success.

A special thank you to Netball South Africa who acknowledged my expertise as the Team Manager of Kingdom Stars team during the Provincial Leagues and appointed me in 2015 as the SPAR Proteas Team Manager. Due credit to KZN Netball as well for recognizing my ability and for appointing me as the KZN Netball Team Manager which provided the platform for me to aspire to the next level. The support from KZN Netball and Netball South Africa in my position as team manager is truly appreciated.

Nisha during the recent Africa Netball World Cup Qualifiers (August 2022).

Any special matches, moments or tournaments that has stood out for you thus far?
Most definitely every match has left an indelible impression in my heart and mind. However a few still stand out. My debut as the SPAR Proteas Team Manager was a day before my birthday on 14 May 2015 against Scotland in Belfast, Ireland at the European Championship. Serving ones country and singing the National Anthem always will be very special.

The Quad Series match on 3 September 2017 in Invercargill where the England Roses were beaten by the SPAR Proteas in the final match.

Winning the Test match against the England Vitality Roses on 1 December 2019 on home ground with the amazing support of the nation .

Finally the most momentous being the win against Jamaica at the 2019 Netball World Cup to reach the semi-finals against Australia (the World Number One) losing by just two goals. The entire team played with the heart of a champion and gave it their all to the very end. They were unrelenting in their pursuit of their vision and their goal. They had the spectators enthralled by their magnificent performance.

Every time a player reaches a milestone celebrating their  1st, 50th, 100th or 150th cap are invaluable moments.

Nisha in March 2021 during the SPAR Challenge.

In your opinion, what special skills does one need to have to be a team manager? And what advice do you have for other aspiring netball managers?
A team manager must be a multi-faceted individual who is able to multi-task, have an analytical and proactive mindset with the ability to come up with innovative contingency plans all the time.

They must have  ability to optimize efficiency and excellence in every endeavour ensuring their wealth of experience, expertise, skills and personal strengths align with the compelling vision and mission of the team and the organization.

Advice: To constantly redefine and re-invent yourself  by continuously  enhancing one’s skills’ and core offerings to the team in order to provide the platform for the team to perform at their optimum. To be resourceful and creative in the most challenging situations and inherently  possess a very progressive and visionary attitude continuously embracing creativity, and innovation with an unwavering passion for the sport.

The Netball World Cup is coming to South Africa, how does this make you feel?
Absolutely ecstatic and elated to be part of such a historic moment. Certainly a well deserved milestone for Netball South Africa and the country as a whole. Definitely a special moment for the team to perform in front of a very passionate sport nation and their dear fans.

Where it all began at the SPAR Proteas. Nisha in May 2015 with Bennie Saayman, head coach for South Africa during the European Championships.

If you could give a special message to the rest of South Africa, what would it be?
Firstly thank you for your unwavering support. You are the wind beneath our wings as the SPAR Proteas. Your passion and motivation have constantly inspired the team to aspire to great heights to make you proud as a nation.

You play an integral role in the life of an athlete and the journey of a team. Every moment a team steps out on court they represent you with pride and honour knowing they carry the hope of the nation in their hands.

Let us together increase the momentum in this brilliant journey to the 2023 World Cup and make this the most memorable Netball World Cup ever.

I would like to acknowledge the Department of Education KZN and Wingen Secondary Secondary for the opportunity to serve my country.

Thank you Nisha and congratulations again on reaching this amazing milestone.

Photo Credit: Huw Fairclough / David Rantho / Skhu Nkomphela