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Annual SPAR Netball Championships sets new record in 2023 as biggest ever

Rustenburg, North West Province, South Africa: The excitement of the Netball World Cup followed by Varsity Netball is over, but there is still plenty for netball fans to enjoy, as the annual SPAR National Championships begin in Rustenburg on October 2. The good news is that select matches are to be televised live on SuperSport.

The SPAR National Championships are traditionally played in August, to coincide with Women’s Month and National Women’s Day, but had to be postponed this year because of the Netball World Cup in Cape Town in August.

Up to 1800 players will descend on Hoërskool Rustenburg for a feast of netball, with the Under-21 championships being played alongside the senior tournament. Nine districts will compete for the senior A title, which is currently held by Johannesburg.

Hoërskool Rustenburg is one of the top netball schools in the North-West Province. It fields 13 teams which compete successfully in local and provincial leagues and tournaments. Having so many teams gives more players the opportunity to play competitive netball. In 2022, teams from the school finished first or second in several provincial leagues.

The President of the Netball South Africa, Cecilia Molokwane, expresses the importance of the tournament and the positive impact it plays for netball in South Africa.

“SPAR National Championships is a very important tournament for us as Netball South Africa, it has allowed us over the years to identify players to play for the national teams (under 23’s and seniors). It has become a good hunting ground for scouts and perfect opportunity for players to also showcase their talents. We are truly grateful to SPAR for their unwavering support throughout the years – it is because of such partnerships that we have been able to grow and be who and where we are. Another step in the right direction in helping us take netball back to the people and turn the sport professional,”

Netball South Africa Vice President and tournament director Mami Diale said Hoërskool Rustenburg was an ideal venue for the national championships.

“We need at least 10 netball courts to be able to run our tournaments efficiently, and they have 12.  One of these will be taken over by SuperSport, but we still have 11 available to us.

“It is a friendly environment, with lots of shade,” said Diale.

“We know it might be hot in October but we have contingency plans to deal with that,” she said.

“We will set up a big marquee which will provide players with a rest area in the shade and we will organise the programme to avoid playing in the middle of the day.”

Diale said there had been an increase in the number of teams entering the tournament in the last couple of years.

“It may be a result of increased interest in netball because of the Netball World Cup.  But I am delighted that 50 teams have entered the Under-21 tournament and 59 have entered the senior tournament. We believe this is a sign that there is a growing interest in netball in outlying areas,” said Diale.

She said that while most members of the SPAR national team would miss the tournament because they would be on tour in Australia, members of the SPAR national squad would be seen in action in Rustenburg.

SPAR and Netball South Africa (NSA) are fully committed to the battle against gender-based violence (GBV) and Lifeline counsellors will be available throughout the tournament to assist players, officials and administrators.

Tickets for the games will be available at the venue – R20 for adults and R10 for children.

Selected matches will be broadcast LIVE on SuperSport Variety 4/Channel 209 (2-7 October)

Photo: Reg Caldecott