Bound by an unshakeable spirit, the SPAR NMMU-Madibaz netball team are ready for their biggest Varsity Netball challenge when they tackle University of Pretoria (Tuks) in the semi-finals in Pretoria on Monday.
Coach Lana Krige said they would not underestimate the task ahead of them against the log-leaders, but said the players were determined to prove their credentials.
After setting themselves the target of ending at least fifth in this year’s tournament, the Madibaz exceeded that following a crucial victory over NWU-Pukke last month to finish fourth on the round-robin log, securing a spot in the play-offs.
Krige is banking on the strong spirit they have created to give them a chance against the unbeaten Tuks outfit.
Despite losing to the Pretoria team in the round-robin section, she said they were excited about meeting their highly rated opponents again.
“We played a Tuks side virtually at full strength and that is an advantage because the girls now know what to expect and we look forward to the challenge,” said Krige.
“We know it’s going to be extremely tough and everything must be right for us to have a chance. But in our previous game we matched them for long periods and were only really outplayed in the power play.”
In that power play, said Krige, Tuks scored 16 goals without reply to take control of a match which had been hard-fought until that stage.
She added that they had been more successful in the power play against NWU-Pukke and it would be important to display the same sort of intensity against Tuks.
“We have been building for a long time, trying to get the girls to play at that intensity for a longer time in our matches. The theme of our match against Pukke (which they won 38-34) was to stay in the game as long as possible.
“If you can stay in it, then you can run with your opponents towards the end and you always have a chance.”
Krige said the camaraderie they had built this season was the reason behind much of their success.
“For me the big thing is building a team,” she said. “We don’t force any friendships but management have handled everything brilliantly.
“We have worked to make sure there are no side issues to distract the players and from that point of view we have developed into a very happy camp.”
She added that while they had set a goal of ending fifth, they were now eager for further success.
“We wanted at least fifth position and would have been disappointed with sixth. But as soon as you achieve something a different goal sets in and now we don’t really just want to end fourth.
“We know we have a tough match ahead but we also know that on the day anything can happen.”
Madibaz Sport netball manager Theresa le Roux said they were extremely proud of what the team had achieved.
“At one stage they looked to be fighting it out for fifth and sixth place, but they came through with a great win over Pukke. We are extremely happy that they have qualified for the play-offs.”
Le Roux added that the last time the Madibaz had reached the semis was in 2012, when they ended third.