While the results may not have gone their way in the first round of the Varsity Netball tournament, the SPAR Madibaz are far from done.
The experienced Juanita van Tonder believes the “good vibes” that have served the team so well this season will carry them through despite their opening round defeats to perennial favourites UFS-Kovsies and Wits.
The result against their Johannesburg hosts on Monday could have gone either way, with only one point separating the sides at the final whistle.
“The loss against Wits was quite disappointing but we are still motivated by our purpose,” Van Tonder said.
“In fact, the losses have made us grow stronger and created a greater sense of dependency on one another.”
Varsity Netball was “an exhilarating” experience and provided an excellent platform for up-and-coming talent to be identified, she added.
Van Tonder and Mothira Mohammad were sensational in Joburg, dominating proceedings for large parts of the game.
In a daring and unorthodox move, Van Tonder was switched from goal-defence to goal-shooter in the second half – an inspired decision which paid off handsomely.
It was end-to-end netball as both teams threw everything at their opponents to gain the advantage. Ultimately, it was Wits who came away with the spoils 34-33.
“We knew it was going to be a tough weekend against two tough teams, but lessons have been learnt,” Van Tonder said.
“One of the biggest was that small mistakes can make a huge difference in the long run. We are working on our small errors and how to minimise them.”
This weekend’s fixtures at the University of Johannesburg’s Soweto campus will be no less challenging. Madibaz take on the hosts on Saturday, UP-Tuks on Sunday and the University of the Western Cape on Monday.
UJ will be under pressure on their home court, having lost 43-47 to North-West University and 53-58 to UP-Tuks last weekend.
The latter bring red-hot form into the weekend, having accounted for UJ and then UWC in a powerful 65-48 display.
The Cape university are also winless in the tournament so far.
Madibaz Netball manager Melinda Goosen conceded that the opening weekend had been “tough” and that a lot of work had gone into game plans this week.
She was pleased there had been many defensive positives and individual wins in terms of performances thus far. Goalkeeper Kelly du Toit, for example, won Player of the Match against Wits.
“What we learnt is that we need to be more clinical moving forward as this can make or break you.
“But we have been positive in our preparation because this competition is by no means over.
“Last weekend it was only the scoreboard that didn’t go in our favour. A lot of positives were gained.”
It was about taking those positives into the next round, she said.
Varsity Netball is a stern examination, and the team know there are no easy fixtures.
“You have to bring your A-game to every match,” Goosen said