Pre­mier League

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - SEANOKENG MOLOSANKWE

WITH THE de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons, the Free State Crinums, out of the Bru­tal Fruit Net­ball Pre­mier League (BFNPL), the pres­sure is on the Gaut­eng Jaguars to claim the tro­phy after fin­ish­ing sec­ond in the past three fi­nals.

It won’t be an easy task, how­ever, for the Jaguars, in spite of los­ing only one match this sea­son. Firstly, they will have to over­come the Western Cape Stings in the first semi-fi­nal at Man­gaung In­door Sports Cen­tre in Bloem­fontein on Satur­day (tip-off 4pm).

In the sec­ond semi-fi­nal, the North West Flames will come up against Gaut­eng Fire­balls at the same venue two hours later.

The fi­nal will be held on Sun­day. The win­ner of the tour­na­ment will travel to New Zealand to take part in their lo­cal league, leav­ing later this month to play in that coun­try from July 2-7.

Look­ing ahead to this week­end’s matches, the Jaguars cap­tain reck­ons the pres­sure is not on her team only.

“There is pres­sure on all four teams, be­cause we were not the favourites when the tour­na­ment started,” said Sha­dine van der Merwe, who was talk­ing at the BFNPL cap­tains’ run held in Mel­rose Arch yes­ter­day. “The Fire­balls were the favourites be­cause they had lots of Proteas play­ers in their team. Peo­ple say it doesn’t mat­ter who has the best names. At the end of the day, the best team that plays the best to­gether, will go through. We’ve got less pres­sure this year be­cause we’ve started as the new team. The play­ers that get cho­sen are the play­ers that can pull through for us.”

Van der Merwe fur­ther ex­plained the only rea­son they’ve done well and reached the fi­nal for the past three sea­son, was be­cause of con­sis­tency. “It is key. So, I think go­ing into the week­end and analysing the team we play against, is very im­por­tant. We’ve also been con­sis­tent at train­ing. When we get to the train­ing ground, we go hard and make sure to use that time to get on court and just play to­gether as a team, so we don’t strug­gle dur­ing match day.”

“Go­ing to the semi-fi­nal for the fourth time is great be­cause that shows con­sis­tency from the first year of the Pre­mier League, up un­til now. I must also com­pli­ment our coach, Jenny van Dyk, be­cause of what she is do­ing. She chooses the play­ers that can win games for her.”

With sev­eral Proteas in the Stings, one would’ve thought that it would have been easy for An­nelie Lu­cas’ team to se­cure a play-off berth.

Not so, ex­plained their cap­tain, Leanie Kleyn­hans-Counelis­sen. She said: “With the jour­ney that we had, it is re­ward­ing to be in the semi-fi­nal. We are ex­cited, but also ner­vous. I think it’s go­ing to be great. This is an amaz­ing op­por­tu­nity for the Stings.”

Pres­i­dent of Net­ball of South Africa (NSA) Mimi Mthethwa, mean­while, re­vealed she was im­pressed by this year’s tour­na­ment.

“I think we had a bril­liant tour­na­ment this year. We’ve been talk­ing about hav­ing our own academy where we can iden­tify black play­ers. We said it openly. The rea­son why some prov­inces are strug­gling is be­cause they don’t get sim­i­lar sup­port that is re­ceived by play­ers that are at­tached to uni­ver­si­ties. So, now it’s one step to­wards that. If we can have coaches that can be put on a pro­gramme, mak­ing sure that they be­come high per­for­mance coaches, that will fil­ter down and trans­late into hav­ing bet­ter qual­ity play­ers from the prov­inces’, said Mthethwa.

“We are happy with the im­prove­ments we’ve seen with Lim­popo Baob­abs. We would like also to go to the North­ern Cape and see what’s go­ing on, be­cause they’re go­ing down. We do know that they have chal­lenges with their prov­ince be­ing the big­gest prov­ince, so it’s dif­fi­cult to iden­tify tal­ent and work with it. So, as NSA, we want to do some­thing to as­sist, just like we did for Mpumalanga and Lim­popo,” she added.

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