Tuks crowned Varsity Netball champions

ANTHONY JORDAAN
On 9 October, UP’s Rembrandt Hall played host to the fifth annual Varsity Netball final, as defending and two-time champions, NWU-Pukke Netball took on TuksNetball.
With the tournament’s top two teams battling it out in front of a packed crowd, it was third time finalists, UP-Tuks, who ultimately went on to overturn what has been an extended period of heartache in the competition ever since its inception in 2013. UP-Tuks beat NWU-Pukke 43-41.

It was by no means all smooth sailing for the UP-Tuks team as the side experienced momentary lapses in concentration throughout the encounter. TuksNetball were fortunate, however, as NWU-Pukke Netball appeared to be particularly prone to creating a host of mistakes and unforced errors. With both teams boasting immense defensive efforts on the evening, the end of the first quarter saw NWU-Pukke trail by 10 points to the 12 points of UP-Tuks.
The margin lasted only a short time however, as TuksNetball began pulling away within the second quarter, eventually heading into half time with the score line reading UP-Tuks 27-19 NWU-Pukke. With the match seemingly over and TuksNetball appearing to be romping towards a first ever Varsity Netball title, the odds quickly shifted. In the third quarter of the match TuksNetball appeared to have switched off for a total of about six minutes, as NWU-Pukke Netball raced ahead on the scoresheet.
 The UP-Tuks side however never appeared to panic, a characteristic that can perhaps be attributed to the team’s extensive training and preparation in the build up to the season. Heading into the final quarter of the game, TuksNetball had regained a two-goal lead (35-33), ultimately managing to hang on, as they saw out the remainder of the game eventually walking away 43-41 victors, over the defending champions NWU-Pukke Netball. The title, which comes as TuksNetball's’ first in the tournaments five-year history, means that the side now join the likes of the university’s rugby, women’s hockey, football and athletics teams, in claiming victory in 2017’s Varsity Sports and Varsity Cup competitions.
On two separate occasions throughout the tournament's history, in 2014 and 2016 respectively, TuksNetball progressed unbeaten throughout the entire competition, only to fall at the last hurdle on each occasion. Last year’s final in particular, was one that had lingered on the minds of TuksNetball supporters, coaching staff and players alike, with the team having only narrowingly missed out to NWU-Pukke Netball in the final, with a score line of 55-56.Coming into the 2017 campaign, question marks were unsurprisingly placed over the team, with many concerned as to whether or not the players would be able to bounce back after coming so devastatingly close to victory in 2016.
Perdeby, speaking with club Head of Programme & Head Coach, Jenny van Dyk, was offered some valuable insight into just how the team had set about in their preparations for the 2017 season. Most significantly, Van Dyk spoke directly as to how the team began preparations for this years’ competition following her side's loss to NWU-Pukke in last year’s final. She added that while the remaining seven teams went into a rest period after the 2016 competition, the club had decided to put their players through an intensive six-week training programme, in order to gain a head start on preparations for the 2017 campaign.
Coming into the current campaign there were many different expectations placed on the team. Not only were TuksNetball competing to restore their wounded pride, but the 2017 sporting calendar slowly started turning into one in which all of the university’s major sporting codes began accumulating success within their respective Varsity Sport. During the round robin stages of the competition, Van Dyk spoke of the success of other sporting codes at UP. Although these successes served as a strong motivation for the team to go all the way in the 2017 edition of the competition, Van Dyk admitted that it too carried the potential of becoming the side's biggest enemy. This was a critical awareness which has since served the side very well, with players and coaches keeping their eyes on the final objective for the entire duration of the season.
Following what has been a truly awe-inspiring year by many of UP’s sporting codes, there is perhaps one final question critics will be left asking. Will the sporting success experienced by the University of Pretoria in 2017 ever be replicated?

 

Photo: Stefan Stander

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