DURBAN (30 May 2016) – It was an unshakeable faith in her players and their desire to do whatever it takes that saw Free State Crinums coach Burta de Kock guide her team to a third consecutive Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League title over the weekend.
Michael Vlismas – The Crinums beat the Gauteng Jaguars 52-43 in Saturday’s final in Durban. For the Jaguars, it was their third consecutive loss to the Crinums in the final of Africa’s premier netball competition.
It was a remarkable end to a season that didn’t start well for the Crinums as they lost several experienced players and had to do without star defender Karla Mostert for most of the season while she was campaigning in England’s Super League.
The Crinums were beaten by the Jaguars in the opening game of the league phase of the competition, and the Free Staters had to wait until the third round to get their first win of the season.
“We had a new team. We’d lost a lot of star players and had a bunch of youngsters who had to fill those shoes. Physically they were definitely up to the challenge, but mentally I had to get them to believe in themselves,” said De Kock.
Her faith was rewarded by a group of players willing to make every sacrifice asked of them. When the other teams flew to the match venues in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban, the Crinums travelled by bus, often arriving back in Bloemfontein at two o’clock in the morning after a hard weekend of netball.
“Not even that made them despondent. We wanted our players to be able to fly but budget just didn’t allow for it and the players accepted this. I am very grateful for this group of players who not once in the season demanded anything.
“They also put in the hard work of analysing their personal performances as well as that of the next team we would face before they came to training, and then asked me my thoughts which allowed me to tweak here and there. They took that ownership of this season and that was important for me.”
It could have been easy for De Kock to bemoan her lack of experience in the team. But as one of the most astute netball coaches in the country, she opted to embrace the challenge.
“Every player was important to me. So I focused a lot on creating that self-belief in them. I wanted every player to feel that she was vital to this team and that she was going to make a difference in a game. So from the start of the season our focus wasn’t on the players we didn’t have. It was about the players we did have and moving forward with them.”
In the battle for third place, the Western Cape Southern Stings beat the North West Flames 56-35.
Semi-Finals: Crinums 45 Flames 42; Jaguars 64 Southern Stings 43.
5th/6th Place Playoff: Kingdom Stars 40 Fireballs 39.
3rd/4th Place Playoff: Southern Stings 56 Flames 35.
Final: Crinums 52 Jaguars 43.