The University of the Free State (UFS) has heaped praise on the three star players that helped South Africa’s Protea Netball team finish in fourth position overall at the 2019 Netball World Cup in Liverpool, England. They are Khanyisa Chawane, a centre court player, Maryka Holtzhausen, goal attack, and Karla Pretorius, goal defence.Holtzhausen and Pretorius are Kovsie alumni while Chawane is continuing her studies at Kovsies. This was the SA netball side’s best ever finish in 24 years of participation at the World Cup.Despite no podium place for SA, Pretorius brought some pride as she was named Player of the 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup. She was honoured during the medal ceremony. Pretorius has returned to Australia to continue her sporting career playing for The Sunshine Coast Lightning team for the remainder of the Super Netball League season. The last South African to win the coveted accolade was Erin Burger in the 2011 Netball World Cup in Singapore. Interestingly Burger was the touring roommate of Pretorius in 2011. “When Erin won the award eight years ago it inspired me. I have always believed that we can compete with the best in the world even though we don’t play as often as we would like against the top nations. “Me winning this award shows that South Africa has the talent, players and team to go to the top. I am excited about the future of the Proteas,” said a delighted Pretorius. The Proteas booked their spot in the semi-final on Wednesday night (17/07), after five consecutive victories in Liverpool, but fell by the wayside in a fiercely contested match against no. 1 ranked Australia, who won 55 – 53 to progress to the final. Australia are 11-time winners of the 14 World Cups to date.Khanyisa, who made her Protea debut less than a year ago, was earmarked to mostly be a reserve, but she has featured in all five matches thus far. In the victory over the world’s number two team, Jamaica, she played the final two quarters as wing defence in a high-pressure encounter, which the Proteas won by three goals.Holtzhausen has a goal-success percentage of 80%, but it is her role as playmaker and by ensuring that she feeds her goal shooter, Lenize Potgieter, with the majority of shooting attempts close to the net, that impressed. Pretorius, who snatched two Player of the Match awards, pressurised opponents into mistakes on defence. Her 13 intercepts are the joint third most in the tournament.The Proteas finished the competition with two losses, against Australia in the semi-final and England for the bronze medal.