Spar Proteas goal shooter and goal attack, Ine-Marí Venter hopes that the current world champions, Springboks can inspire the senior team to a podium finish in the 2023 Netball World Cup. The Proteas have begun their preparations to welcome the world when South Africa hosts the first Netball World Cup on African soil with a string of training camps held in Stellenbosch.
The Dorette Badenhorst-led side will be looking to better their performance in the last edition of the competition, where they finished in the top four in 2019 in Liverpool and missed a podium finish by a whisker. This was the first time that the country finished that high since 1995. Venter reckons that the heroics in Japan could inspire the team to its first ever title.
“Obviously the Commonwealth Games were a big disappointment, not only for the country but for us as players as well. We under performed. We were very disappointed by what we delivered. We said we have a year to change things around, if the Springboks could do it we can do it as well. We have been in a fulltime programme, getting more physically fit and stronger, also just to build the connections in the squad. It is our home country and we want to do well in front of our home crowd. Everyone is mentally ready to do it. We have a lot of players coming back to the squad like Karla (Pretorius) and Lenize (Potgieter), it’s big pressure but it’s something we want to thrive under. This is the aim for next year and we are doing the work off the court, on the court to give South Africa a good performance when we play in front of our home crowd,” she says.
The 27-year-old renewed her relationship with Saracens Mavericks for the 2023 Vitality Netball Super League having joined the side in 2021. She had spent two years in Australia prior to her move to the United Kingdom where she played for the Melbourne Vixens and the Queensland Firebirds in the Suncorp Super Netball. The UK is slowly becoming her second home but she is more pleased that she is getting more game time that she did Down Under.
“I am feeling at home at Saracens and they have made me feel at home. I am enjoying my ‘new’ home away from home. It’s a semi-professional league, all the athletes are being paid on a 12 month contract with the clubs. We are on a semi-fulltime set up, training here is my job. I don’t have to do anything else, I am getting paid to just play netball and train. There’s a lot of international players, so you are playing against world class players every weekend whether
However the door to going back to Australia isn’t closed as she would like to make an impact there.
“When I came to England I said I wanted to be here for three years, so that I can build on a performance, build a foundation and see where I am. Get the confidence back. The plan is to go back to Australia after the World Cup but obviously plans change, God has a will for
everybody and wherever He places me, whatever doors he opens, that is where I will go. If He decides that I have to stay here, then I will stay, but the plan is to go back to Australia if I get the opportunity,” she says.
Calls for a professional league keep getting louder, the current Telkom Netball League (TNL) is still semi-professional and the season is shorter, as compared to the Vitality and Suncorp, as it has to accommodate a number of games per weekend. This is because most of the players still have fulltime jobs while others are fulltime students. Venter reckons a professional league would strengthen the sport in the country.
“When I was coming to uni, it wasn’t known for players to go abroad but now, the more players go abroad you can see the quality of the netball and how the players have developed overseas being in a fulltime position, being in a fulltime programme. You can see you are improving. You are getting used to playing against (international) players which doesn’t become a big shock every time you have to step on court against England, New Zealand and all those teams. I think it’s something for our future netball players to look forward to and hopefully it’s something that will inspire Netball South Africa to make netball professional,” she says.
The former Gauteng Jaguars star, who is currently in the UK preparing for the start of next season, reckons that if the club competitions would be open to other African players, this would create a stiffer competition for players which would better the sport in the country.
“If you look at it, we have incredible players in Africa. We have incredible talent but we just don’t have the opportunities that Australia, New Zealand and England have, in terms of being paid to play netball at a club level and to develop those players. If you took the TNL and you open it to international players, bringing in one or two from Malawi or Uganda, that would mean our players would have to start stepping up because we would have players coming in. If you want to be play you would have to be better than the international players. You wouldn’t be able just to walk into a team and play, you would have to be fit and strong. That’s how you improve the game, that’s what Australia, New Zealand and England have been doing,” she explains.