Maties got the defence of their title off on a winning note when they beat newcomers Wits on the first day of the 2023 Varsity Netball tournament at the Wits Sports Hall in Johannesburg.
There were also victories for UFS-Kovsies over Madibaz, UP-Tuks over UJ and NWU over UWC. The first bumper weekend continues tomorrow at the same venue.
Maties 51 Wits 25
Defending champions Maties could their 2023 campaign off on a winning note with a 51-25 victory over debutants Wits.
Maties went into the game as favourites, with a few of their players already well-established. It was always going to be a tough assignment for Wits though, with their squad consisting of several first-year students, lacking the necessary experience.
The first quarter began in an unexpected manner with Maties starting off slowly while Wits showed great energy defensively to make it a four-point game after the first quarter. The rest of the half saw Maties settle into their style and piling on the goals. The Maroon Machine were certainly better with attempts at the hoop and generally moved the ball well, which allowed them to go into the break with a 24-12 lead.
The third quarter saw a better turnout for the Witsies in front of their home crowd, who spurred them on well. The defending champions however held onto their lead, ending the third quarter on 37-23.
Maties came out stronger in the last quarter, making life difficult for Wits. Wits struggled to create any clear-cut scoring opportunities and only managed to add two goals to their tally.
Maties in the end powered on to conclude the match with a 51-25 victory. Credit to the Wits players who really pushed towards containing a highly experienced Maties outfit, who simply outwitted the Wits debutants.
UFS-Kovsies 55 Madibaz 27
UFS-Kovsies got their campaign off to a great start when they managed to overcome Madibaz 55-27.
The game began quite tentative with very little to separate the two teams and Kovsies enjoyed a slender 11-8 lead after the first 15 minutes. The next quarter saw a better defensive display from Kovsies while Madibaz failed to string passes together consistently. The higher tempo by the Free State team was evident in the number of intercepts, with Kovsies making a staggering 11, compared to the three of the Madibaz. Kovsies increased their lead to 30-17 at halftime.
In the second half of the match saw Kovsies enjoyed the better of the exchanges while being relentless on defence. Madibaz struggled to keep up and the match was concluded with Kovsies walking away with a well-deserved victory.
Liame de Lange was certainly the standout player throughout the match, producing six intercepts, six deflections and a rebound which in the end earned her the player of the match award.
UP-Tuks 58 UJ 53
The much-anticipated north and south Gauteng derby was an exhilarating clash that saw UP-Tuks leaving it late to beat UJ 58-53.
The game got underway at a high tempo with UJ doing well to pounce on the errors made by Tuks in the opening exchanges. Errors in crucial parts of the court let the Pretoria-based team down to gift the Orange Army a 14-10 lead after the first quarter.
The second quarter saw a tightly contested affair. Tuks were the first team to call for a power play, which worked better for UJ, who managed to add four goals to their tally as opposed to the two from the Tshwane side. This however did not deter Tuks as they clawed their way back in the game to reduce UJ’s lead to one goal going into the halftime interval, with the score at 27-26.
In the second half, play resumed at a fast pace, which at times saw both teams making more unforced errors as the match continued. The end of the third quarter saw Tuks eventually turn matters around to enjoy a four-goal lead, with the game still very much in the balance.
UJ called for their power play in the final quarter. This time it was Tuks that took full advantage, managing to grab four goals while UJ failed to capitalise and only managed two. The match-up was a thrilling end-to-end battle but Tuks did well to maintain their lead, landing a goal at the stroke of fulltime to claim an exhilarating 58-53 win over their Johannesburg counterparts.
NWU 51 UWC 36
NWU capped off the first day’s play with a hard-fought 51-36 win over a resilient UWC.
The game saw NWU starting off like a house on fire, dictating the pace of the game and with UWC struggling to keep up. The first quarter concluded with NWU in a commanding 23-5 lead, setting the scenario up for a big score in the match. The second quarter saw the team from the Western Cape come out with a different kind of energy, where they looked to move the ball around at their own pace, which lead to more scoring opportunities. UWC outscored their opponents in the quarter, but it was still NWU that went into the halftime break 31-15 up.
The third quarter saw UWC fall further behind with NWU adding a further 10 goals. It was a tough quarter for UWC, but it seemed they left their best netball for the final quarter, as they took it to NWU, utilising the power play very well to cut the deficit. UWC certainly showed that they could be a dangerous opponent in this competition. Unfortunately for the ladies from the Western Cape, their fightback was a little too late against an experienced NWU team who managed to hold on for a 51-36 victory.