With the focus in recent weeks being on the Proteas at the Netball World Cup, it is rather fitting that the grassroots level is getting their time in the sun too through the SASN Secondary Schools Championships being held this weekend at Hoërskool Dr EG Jansen in Boksburg.
Following the success of last year's tournament, this year's – again sponsored by Twizza and Key Health medical scheme – has gone bigger and better. Instead of just the Under-19 age group, the championships are featuring the best Under-14, -16 and -17 netballers too. Also, in a slight twist from 2018, the Batho (First Division) and uBuntu (Second Division) schools will compete together in the group stages before splitting off into their own playoff rounds.
Friday's first day of the action in the Under-19 age group saw a staggering 55 games being played, with talented girls from across South Africa playing their games in great spirit.
The winners of the first round of clashes went according to script. That said, Nhlanhlayethu from KwaZulu-Natal nearly upset Diamantveld from Northern Cape (21-22) and Zwartkop (Eastern Cape) played to an entertaining 21-21 draw against HTS Middelburg (Mpumalanga) - the only stalemate of Day 1. Stellenberg (Western Cape) produced the most one-side early morning performance when they thrashed Nqabara (Eastern Cape) 74-1.
Come late morning, the remainder of the 39 Under-19 teams got their first taste of action on the 10 courts at Dr EG Jansen. The Batho teams again held sway, no more so than when Rustenburg (North-West) handed Nqabara another demorialising loss, 72-1. Machakela-Mamodibo (North-West) got the better of the first all-Ubuntu clash when they relatively comfortably beat Edmund Rice (Free State) with a 23-15 scoreline. Last year's runners-up, Affies, were made to work much harder for their second win in two when they edged Eldoraigne (Gauteng), 25-24.
The third session of matches were contested in much closer manner, with the score average and the margins between the teams being less than the first two sessions. Modilati (Gauteng) claimed the spoils in the second all-Ubuntu fixture, 35-10 against OR Tambo (Limpopo), while HTS Middelburg were again involved in tight contest, but lost 20-22 to Bloemhof (Western Cape).
In final round of action, there was a wide variety of results. Azwifarwi (Limpopo) and Idlangamabala (Mpumalanga) won their all-Ubuntu clashes - against Masibambane (Western Cape) and out-gunned Nqabara respectively. Goudveld (Free State) and Stellenberg produced a 25-27 edge-of-the-seater while Paarl Gimnasium (Western Cape), Affies, Zwartkop and Potchefstroom Gimnasium (North-West) laid down further markers as they look to follow Menlopark as national champions.
All told, 10 teams won all their matches on Friday, namely Paarl Gimnasium (Group A), Duineveld (Group B), Oranje and Diamantveld (Group C), Sentraal (Group D), Stellenberg and Rustenburg (Group E), Affies (Group F) Waterkloof (Group G) and Bloemhof (Group H). Diamantveld and Rustenburg play second fiddle to the aforementioned teams in the Group because they only played twice rather than three times on Friday. Duineveld, meanwhile, have a lesser goal difference to Noordheuwel who lost one of the four matches they played on the opening day.
The SASN Secondary Schools Championships netball action continues throughout all age groups on Saturday, with the first set of matches set to get underway at 8am from the Dr EG Jansen courts in Boksburg, Johannesburg, right through to 5pm. Sunday will see the knockout phase, with the nation's best teams across the age groups set to be crowned.