Tuks coach Jenny van Dyk believes they have what it takes to win the Varsity Netball title again. The University of Pretoria have won the competition twice, last etching the star above their crest in the 2019 edition.
UP-Tuks has played in five finals of the Varsity Netball tournament since it was launched in 2013. As they prepare to face the defending champions, Stellenbosch University in the semifinals on Monday, the Stripe National will be hoping their home-ground advantage and their unbeaten streak this season will help them reach yet another final.
Tuks finished top of the log after beating the North West University in the last round-robin match of the competition after recording 28 points. They are the only undefeated team in this campaign. This is a huge improvement by Tuks after they only managed to take the fifth place position in last year’s competition and, subsequently, failed to get into the last four.
The experienced mentor will be hoping to end her year on a high, hopefully, with a gold medal with her university side. She has had a good year so far, having been part of the South African team that returned home with a silver medal from the Commonwealth Youth Games in Trinidad and Tobago. The South African junior team lost only in the final against Australia and returned in the second position, the same as the seniors who also took silver in the 2022 edition of the Fast5 Netball World Series in Christchurch, New Zealand.
RETURNING TO THE TOP
Van Dyk says although they have not won the competition in a while, she reckons this might be the year they return to the top of the podium to earn that elusive gold medal.
“We haven’t won in a while but we have played in a bunch of (other) finals and we have won this competition twice. Yes, why not us? Well obviously, a new competition (semis) starts next week but we are ready,” she says.
The Tshwane side showed a dominant display in their last group match, a much-needed motivation ahead of their semi against Maties who struggled to find their footing a bit this season. The former Botswana national team coach says more than being happy with their win against the NW Eagles, being a consistent team has been important.
“It’s always important to win. We are not afraid of being on top of the log. We are not afraid of going unbeaten into the semifinals, for us it’s about the consistency and getting consistent performances. So it’s about standards. Yes, it is important but more important is the lessons we take out and the preparations that will take us to the semifinals. I am proud of the players but there are still areas that we need to work,” says van Dyk.
Tuks had players who showed up and left it all on the court in the group stages to help the team to the top. Phophi Nematangari, Marichelle Visagie, Milla Coetzee, and Kamogelo Maseko are some of those whose efforts also saw them walk away with player of the match accolades. The team has also produced players such as Shadine van der Merwe, who is fresh from the 2023 Netball World Cup and sits as one of the assistant coaches with Van Dyk on the bench. There are also the likes of Izette Griesel and Lenize Potgieter who have also gone on to don the green and gold.
PROUD OF THE MATURITY AND GROWTH
Van Dyk says she is proud to see how the young players in her squad have matured and grown over the last year to become the players that the younger ones look up to.
“They have been products of the system, they have grown up in our system and we are busy developing them. So it’s the fruit of all our hard labour that you can see on court. They have matured a lot in one year. Remember last year we were almost relegated in our tournament so I think it has been a fantastic turnover and the players have shown so much character throughout the season,” she says.
Although Tuks have a clean record in this campaign, Van Dyk says there are some areas that the team will have to clean up before the semis if they want to book a place in the final.
“Our turnovers, we didn’t quite convert them as we should. We throw away the hard-earned turnovers way too easily. The discipline on the attack and the silly little errors like breaking the line which is not an error that you make at this level,” she explains.