Ine-Mari Venter says Hatfield, where she plays her Netball Super League for the Saracens Mavericks, has become her home.
The Spar Proteas goal shooter’s stay in the United Kingdom has been extended and she will return to her team the Mavericks for yet another season.
The former Gauteng Jaguars player has called England home since her move to the Mavericks in 2021. This was after she had spent some time Down Under, where she played for the Melbourne Vixens and the Queensland Firebirds in the Suncorp Super Netball. She was spotted by Vixens coach, Simone McKinnis while representing South Africa at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and joined them for the 2019 season before heading to the Firebirds the following year.
The 28-year-old is one of eight players from last season’s squad who have been recalled to Maverick who will be hoping to improve their 2023 season where they finished fifth on the log and missed out on a semifinal spot.
Venter says she is happy at the club.
“It’s my second home away from home. They have made me feel like family and they take care of their players. With the league looking to professionalise in 2025, I am definitely at the right club in terms of that but life has been good in England. I have made good friends over there. The club is very special and close to my heart,” says Venter.
As the transfer season is still in the process, there are likely more South African players who will be either returning to their clubs overseas or others might be earning their first overseas contracts. So far, Kanyisa Chawane will also be plying her trade in the United Kingdom next season after not being able to do so in 2020 for Team Bath after the Covid-19 pandemic hit and Nichole Taljaard has also secured a contract in the SuperLeague with London Pulse for her maiden season in that league.
She reckons that having more players in competitive leagues will be good for the national teams.
“There are obviously benefits to moving overseas. I think with the netball World Cup we have showcased what lots of young players have, especially in the likes of Elmere (van der Berg), Nicola (Smith), and Nichole Taljaard.
The thing about going overseas is you are fulltime, it’s your job. You train, everything is netball and that is the basis that Australia, New Zealand, and England have.
I think that is the thing we are lacking, the elite level in the TNL (Telkom Netball League). But with more corporate companies backing us, maybe we will have the financial capacity to make it professional,” she says.
Venter however admits that when more of the country’s top players leave, it may also impact the local league.
“Yes it may be difficult sending your best players overseas and may weaken the league a little bit but it gives another opportunity for young players in the TNL to step up which is exciting. It actually develops a bigger group of players,” she adds.
As South Africans are still reeling from the pain of the Proteas not doing as well as expected at the World Cup in Cape Town, so are the players. The Norma Plummer-led side fell to sixth position after losing 49-47 to Uganda in the fifth-place match. This was a step back from the Proteas’ spirited fourth place finish at the 2019 edition of the competition which was held in Liverpool.
Venters says although the team was quite disappointed with how they finished in the tournament, playing in a home World Cup was incredibly special. She got her 50th cap in the green and gold during the tournament in the Proteas' win over Sri Lanka and was also able to bag the Most Valuable Player accolade in the Proteas opening match against Wales where she managed a 91.5 per cent shooting average.
“Obviously it was disappointing not getting where we wanted to go with this World Cup, especially with it being at home. It would have been special if we had finished in the top four or even a podium finish. It was an incredible experience. I think we missed a lot of opportunities and when I say opportunities I mean things like having a draw against New Zealand. If you looked at New Zealand, they had a loss and a draw and still went through to the semifinals and we only had the draw. So it’s opportunities lost but that is the World Cup, it’s tough. But we have learned a lot and I think there is a lot that we can take forward from this. It was exciting and very special to have it at home,” she says.