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13 October 2019 | in NUSF News, Netball

University of Pretoria make history en route to South African Varsity Netball title

Image courtesy: Varsity SportsThe University of Pretoria made South African Varsity Netball history after becoming the first team ever to remain unbeaten the entire tournament, on their way to lifting the coveted cup.

 

Varsity Netball, the premier nationwide university netball competition in South Africa which involves the country’s top eight netball-playing universities, culminated in yet another action-packed final to end a successful seventh edition of the event.

 

The group stages kicked off in August, with Tuks – as University of Pretoria is affectionately known – laying down the gauntlet as they overpowered University of the Free State – defending champions and three-time winners of the tournament – 63-42 in their very first game of the competition.

 

That was just the start, as the ladies from Pretoria showed no mercy by making a clean sweep of any and every opponent in their path, ending with a perfect record of seven wins from seven games to top the table and ease their way into the semi-finals.

 

The opening-day defeat to Tuks would be University of the Free State’s only loss as they secured second spot on the log, closely followed by the University of Stellenbosch – known as Maties – and North West University.

 

The first semi-final resulted in a major upset as defending champions University of the Free State were edged 62-60 in the own back yard by Maties, yet there were no hiccups in semi-final two as Tuks made light work of the North West University, comfortably securing a 57-38 victory to march on into the final.


Image courtesy: Varsity Sports
The gold-medal match was played in front of a jubilant Tuks home crowd at Rembrandt Hall, and was the first final in which Maties and Tuks faced off. The hosts were looking to shake off their final hoodoo, having won the competition just once despite having appeared in four previous finals.

 

History favoured Tuks, who had won seven of the eight previous encounters between the two sides, while home captain Tshina Mdau etched her name into the history books as she took to the court, becoming the first player to feature in five Varsity Netball finals.

  

Tshina Mdau. Image courtesy:Reg Caldecott

Both teams endured a number of nervy moments in the match, with the magnitude of the occasion clearly getting the better of some of the players whose uncharacteristic errors were a cause of concern for their respective coaches. Once both teams found their rhythm, Tuks led 14-10 after the first quarter. However, when the whistle blew for half-time, it was the Maties who refused to let the boisterous home crowd deter them as they took a narrow 24-23 lead.

 

The third quarter ebbed and flowed with little to choose between the two evenly-matched sides, and as the game headed into the last quarter, it was Tuks who held a one-point advantage, with the scoreboard reading 35-34.

 

It was a nailtbiting finish. Maties took a 40-39 lead with just six minutes to go, before the home side rallied, scoring four goals on the trot to make it 43-40. Maties then pulled it back to 43-42, yet the home side would not relinquish their unbeaten run and refused to be beaten on their home turf, eventually pulling five goals ahead by the sound of the final whistle to claim the gold medal with a 48-43 victory.

 

In doing so, they added to their 2017 victory to become the joint second-most successful team in the history of the competition. History maker Mdau, appearing in her fifth and last final, was naturally elated after Tuks ended their unbeaten season on a high.

 

“We won. We remained unbeaten. It is a first for Varsity Netball. It is unbelievable,” she said. “I never worried about the outcome of the game. I will admit there was a moment in that last ten minutes when I was wondering why we were trailing Maties. I told my teammates we needed to step up. They did. We won.”

 

The talented athlete was thrilled to end her university career in the best way possible. 

 

“It is my last hurrah, but the best hurrah ever. My journey with this team is a memory that is going to last forever,” she concluded.

 

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