KwaZulu Natal Netball aims to be trailblazers in leading the transformation and growth of the sport in South Africa. The province’s Super League is one way to do that. The competition, which consists of both men's and women’s teams, has made the province’s players become some of the most sought after in the country.
The competition began in 2011 with only six men’s teams from four districts. It was relaunched in 2015 before it welcomed women’s teams in 2017. It now boasts 32 women’s teams and 12 men’s teams. Through the competition, Telkom Netball League sides KwaZulu Natal Kingdom Stars and KwaZulu Natal Kingdom Queens get to pick their players from clubs that compete in this league. The likes of Bongiwe Msomi, Precious Mthembu, and Jessica Khomo, among others, have played in the competition and have further represented the country at the highest level.
KZN Netball president Gugu Ngema says they aim to see the province improve holistically. The federation has helped put through coaches, umpires, and technical officials through different courses to improve their skills throughout.
“It is a vehicle that is used by KZN Netball to grow and develop netball in the province. It assists us to grow the level of play, as far as the players are concerned, as we play them in different competitive netball (matches). As you can see, there are several players on the national team, currently, we have three that are coming from KZN. Also, with the males, I would say about 90 per cent of the males that are on the national team are participating in the Super League. Yes, others might not reside in KZN but the Super League had opened up a platform for players coming outside of KZN. It also assists us with the coaching staff. We are giving the coaches the platform to excel in their coaching as far as high performance coaching,” explains Ngema.
KwaZulu Natal teams have dominated the men’s national competitions such as the Twizza Netball Championships as well as Rea Bapala Males Netball Festival not forgetting a handful of players in the senior men’s national team. She is pleased that the efforts the province makes are evident especially when it comes to the men’s section of the sport.
“The former national coach, Arthur (Maseko), who is now late, was coaching one of the best teams in the Super League. He was followed by Jabulani Vilane, who is the current coach, who is also from KZN and is coaching in the Super League as well. That is how the Super League has impacted even national teams as well, we are seeing this high level of coaches being developed through the Super League and they are also coaching at the national level. We also know Precious Mthembu, who was a Protea, also coaches a team in the female's section and is now an assistant as far as the Under-21 national team is concerned.
“We are happy to see the pathway and level of growth as far as the coaching is concerned. The umpiring as well, we also give a platform for umpires because we are constantly playing in these competitive leagues, our umpires also grow their skills so they are ready to umpire at the national level. As we host the Super League it also equips our technical officials, and
from that expertise, it has assisted a number of them to become national officials. It is a holistic approach,” she says
Ngema has expressed the importance of having a proper development structure. For this, the province has established an Under-13 side which will then graduate to the provincial Under-17, and eventually, she hopes some of those players, will represent the country either at the Baby Proteas level or the senior Spar Proteas team.
The excitement of the impending maiden Vitality Netball World Cup in South Africa has also gripped the Zulu Kingdom. KZN Netball hosted an activation event to show support for the tournament hitting the Western Cape shores from 28 July to 6 August. The event was accompanied by a tournament that also saw the Free State compete as well. Telkom Netball League sides, Kingdom Stars and three-time champions, Crinums test one another on the court and stars walked away as winners on the day. Ngema says the event was set to remind the residents of the province of how big of a deal it is for the country to host the global but also show support even though it’s hosted in a different province.
“We saw an opportunity to benchmark ourselves with our counterparts in soccer to say that when the soccer (2010 Fifa World Cup) was here, we could hear the buzz everywhere. So we had to sit down as a province to say why are we not doing the same? What is it that we can do to mobilise people for netball and South Africa so that we create an atmosphere where everyone understands and knows that the World Cup is coming to South Africa. We know that the World Cup is not in KZN but a majority of our people will not be able to go to the Western Cape we want them to enjoy and feel the World Cup even though it’s not in KZN. That was the motivation for all these activations, they are the build up to the World Cup because the intention is to feel and enjoy the World Cup in our province,” she says.