After three wins in five matches, the SPAR NMMU-Madibaz netball team are targeting a strong finish to their Varsity Netball programme.
Although level with the universities of Free State (Kovsies) and Stellenbosch (Maties) on 15 points, they are trailing them on goal difference and are fifth on the log.
The Port Elizabeth team now face two of their hardest matches when they meet log-leaders UP-Tuks (25) in Pretoria on Sunday and second-placed NWU-Pukke (20) in Stellenbosch on September 29.
Coach Lana Krige acknowledged they had a tough road ahead, but said the youthful Madibaz had gained a sense of belief from their performances.
Although having lost to Kovsies in their last outing, Krige said they had pushed their highly rated opponents all the way.
“Kovsies were always going to be a tough nut to crack. They are usually in the top four and have won competitions such as the USSA tournament.
“But our young team, in which the oldest player is only 22, believed they could take them on.”
She added that the Madibaz had been competitive throughout, only being outplayed when the Free Staters capitalised on their powerplay in the third quarter.
“They had a good game but for the first time against us they were forced to play back, which meant we shut down their attack nicely.
“It was wonderful to match these experienced players and to come out of the match knowing they had a great game.”
Krige said they had started the competition with the target of, at the very least, finishing in the top five.
“We have now secured that position and, if we can pull out a bonus point against either Tuks or Pukke, will be in the mix for a top four spot.
“It will depend on other results going our way, but we are positive and nothing is impossible if we play out of our socks against Tukkies.”
Krige said NMMU’s performances augured well for the future of netball at the varsity.
“Our young players are stepping up to the mark.
“Although, I don’t want to harp on them being young. If you are good enough, age shouldn’t matter.”
She said the players had not been exposed to the intensity of netball at this level and were learning how to handle it.
The Madibaz mentor said several top players from Eastern Province schools would be joining their ranks next year.
“That is great for us. We are hoping the winds of change are blowing and that parents are considering supporting the local university teams by enrolling their kids at NMMU.
“We have a fantastic university with a great netball side where the players will get plenty of exposure at a top level.”