- The seventh edition of the Telkom Netball League is underway from 14 October to 27 October at the Mangaung Indoor Sports Complex.
- Stars captain Precious Mthembu joked that life inside the bubble had become social distancing sleepover.
- Three-peat defending champions, the Gauteng Jaguars, are the team to watch of the 12 sides vying for top honours.
Netball has at last returned to South African courts this month, with the Telkom Netball League (TNL) tipping off last Wednesday.
The tournament was rescheduled from its usual June date to October due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Twelve teams from across the nine provinces will play each other over two weeks, in a tournament scheduled to conclude on 27 October.
Where to watch it
Some of the TNL matches will be broadcast on SuperSport Variety 4 (Channel 209) from 15:00, which would be a big boost for the most popular women's sport in the country.
Non-televised matches will be streamed live on the Netball South Africa Facebook page from 09:00.
The TNL bubble:
All 12 participating teams entered the bio-bubble on 8 October and, while there, will follow strict health protocols.
There will also be no spectators allowed at the arena throughout the duration of the tournament.
Proteas player and Kingdom Stars captain Precious Mthembu joked that life inside the bubble had become social distancing sleepover.
"We just call it a sleepover," she said. "Even though there is going to be challenges along the way but we are prepared for that when we want some space."
Best TNL: Win (2017, 2018, 2019)
Captain: Izette Griesel
Coach: Jenny van Dyk
The dominant Jaguars will be gunning for their fourth consecutive title in Bloemfontein this month.
Jaguars coach Jenny van Dyk insisted that her side would not be complacent as they looked to spark some magic on the court.
"A lot of hard work has gone into winning this league for the past three years and the goal will be to win again this year and that will always be our goal," said Van Dyk.
"Our approach will be taking it from match-to-match and making sure we secure a semi-final and then the magic should start."
On Wednesday, Proteas star player and Jaguars captain Izette Griesel led her side to a 34-31 opening victory against the North West Flames.
"A lot of planning comes into the things we do. We didn't expect to come into this competition and think everything was going to be easy. We know every match will be a battle until the very end," said Van Dyk on Wednesday.
Squad: Venetia Grobler, Alice Kennon, Chantelle Swart, Danielle van Zyl, Izette Griesel, Marlize de Bruin, Lungile Mthembu, Tracey Mthunzi, Mbali Ntuli, Jamie van Wyk, Akosua Mensah, Jasmine Ziegelmeier, Nozipho Ntshangase, Melodine Jacobs.
WC Southern Stings
Best TNL: 2nd (2019)
Captain: Helene Steyn
Coach: Annelie Lucas
The Western Cape Southern Stings finished runners-up at last year's tournament after losing 53-38 to the Jaguars.
Stings coach Anneline Lucas stated that the team is hungry to clinch the title this year.
"You don't win this in the first quarter, you have to keep composure until the end," she said.
"I'm sure these girls are hungry enough to show that they can, they're not just hanging around, they can really push through and win this."
On Wednesday, the Southern Stings got their 2020 campaign off to a disappointing start as they lost 38-36 to the Gauteng Golden Fireballs.
Lucas said their opening clash was an experimental game as their players got rid of some off-season rust.
"It's not a win, which is unfortunate. [There were] a few things that we can work on, the basic mistakes, but in general not a bad start," she said.
Squad: Sian Moore, Hélene Steyn, Nicholé Taljaard, Janke Visagie, Abeline Olivier, Keesha van Schalkwyk, Shannen Bartlett, Jo Prins, Mandy Hermanus, Alison Malgas, Caleigh Stuart, Stephanie Brandt, Megan Gossmann, Nicola Smith.
Free State Crinums
Best TNL: Win (2014, 2015, 2016)
Captain: Lefébre Rademan
Coach: Burta de Kock
The Free State Crinums are three-time TNL champions and come off a third-place finish last year.
Proteas newcomer Khanyisa Chawane returns to the Crinums after she was set to play for Team Bath in the now-cancelled 2020 Vitality Netball Superleague in England.
On Wednesday, the Crinums got off to a flying start as they defeated newly promoted Kingdom Stars 40-30.
Crinums coach Burta de Kock was delighted that their side got over the line.
"We were prepared for a tough game because it's the first game of the tournament, players haven't played in a year," she said.
"Combinations are not really settled in the competition but we're glad we got all of our players … our stronger players came through and brought their experience to the court."
Squad: Ané Retief, Jana Scholtz, Lefébre Rademan, Sikholiwe Mdletshe, Claudia van den Berg, Bianca de Wee, Rolene Streutker, Chanel Vrey, Boitumelo Mahloko, Lerato Chabwe, Refiloe Nketsa, Khanyisa Chawane.
North West Flames
Best TNL: 2nd (2017)
Captain: Monique Reyneke
Coach: Elsjé Jordaan
The North West Flames have yet to get over the finishing line in the tournament, ending in second place in 2017 but will be hoping to feed off Proteas duo Monique Reyneke and Elsunet du Plessis.
The Flames were tasked with playing defending champions Jaguars in their opening encounter and lost 34-31 on Wednesday.
Flames' coach Elsje Jordaan revealed that passing executions were her side's downfall against the Jaguars.
"I'm extremely disappointed," she said.
"I thought we had the game and I thought we were in complete control."
"Our passing executions cost us and our goal average is not where we want it to be. For the first game after being out for so long, it is not too bad but there's a lot of room for improvement."
Squad: Elmeré van der Berg, Chanté Louw, Elsunet du Plessis, Lucy Strydom, Jessica du Plessis, Anika Groenewald, Kailah Ferreira, Adivhaho Tshivhiahuvhi, Simoné Rabie, Didi Keebine, Monique Reyneke, Caitlinn Rousseau, Londeka Buthelezi, Nicolene van Heerden.
KZN Kingdom Stars
Best TNL: 5th (2016, 2019)
Captain: Precious Mthembu
Coach: Bonisiwe Thabethe
Kingdom Stars are looking to make their mark at the TNL in Bloemfontein after failing to secure a semi-final berth over the years.
"We are looking to do quite well, the team is full of experience, we gel really well together," said Stars captain Precious Mthembu.
In their opening match on Wednesday, the Kingdom Stars got off to a rocky start with a 40-30 loss against the Free State Crinums.
Mthembu, who won the Moment of the Match award, insisted that she was not thinking about cementing her place in the Proteas side
"There's brilliant players around the country, I believe there's young blood coming through. It's not really the big moment now, it's just focusing on working and playing for my team and province."
Squad: Nonsikelelo Mazibuko, Alicia Puren, Sue-Ann Botha, Nontuthuko Khomo, Xolile Shange, Nobubele Phuza, Thulisile Maduna, Precious Mthembu, Danelle van der Linde, Kalipa Gibisela, Jeanté Strydom, Snayo Ndaba, Neliswe Biyela, Nokukhanya Hlongwane.
Eastern Cape Aloes
Best TNL: 6th (2014, 2017)
Co-Captains: Jeanie Steyn and Nosiphiwo Goda
Coach: Samesha Esau
The Aloes are spearheaded by experienced Proteas duo Jeanie Steyn and Nosiphiwo Goda.
In the opening match against debutants Western Cape Tornados, the Aloes gave them a taste of the fierce netball played in the TNL with a 34-29 victory.
Aloes coach Samesha Esau acknowledged that it was tough to start their campaign against an unknown team like the Tornados but was delighted to win.
"At the end of the day, it's the team that wants it the most that will walk out with a win," said Esau.
"The spirit of our team is very good, if you're united like that then that will carry you through the competition.
"It's not the performance that we thought but unfortunately this is the type of netball that'll we get, according to the whole Covid-19 because for nine months we haven't played any netball."
Squad: Bongise Wete, Jami-Leigh Goeda, Lungelwa Ngcanga, Jody Vorster, Nwabisa Maseni, Pamela Chukwu, Noluthando Maliehe, Noluvuyo Nodludlume, Nomxolisi Luvuno, Nosiphiwo Goda, Philene van Niekerk, Jeanie Steyn, Siphosethu Kilani, Yandiswa Makasi.
Gauteng Golden Fireballs
Best TNL: 3rd (2014, 2017)
Captain: Bongi Msomi
Coach: Dumisani Chauke
The Golden Fireballs go into the TNL as one of the teams to watch, despite never hoisting the coveted TNL trophy.
The side is led by experienced Proteas skipper Bongi Msomi and is coached by the newly appointed Proteas assistant coach Dumisani Chauke.
Said Chauke: "This year we'll be bringing a different style of play, a different energy, a revamped version of the Golden Fireballs. We are out there to compete this season."
The Golden Fireballs failed to register a single win in the 2019 edition as they finished sixth.
However, on Wednesday, they got off to a stellar start when they secured a nail-biting 38-36 win against the Southern Stings.
"This is the start we were looking for, [but] not as clean as we wanted it to be. However, it's a great start and a win so we'll take it," said Chauke.
Squad: Liza Kruger, Renske Stoltz, Talja Venter, Kamogelo Maseko, Bongi Msomi, Romé Dreyer, Tshina Mdau, Sinenhlanhla Msomi, Zanele Vimbela, Juzelri Garbers, Panashe Chiranga, Tinita van Dyk, Melanie de Lange, Lebogang Ditlhake.
Best TNL: 7th (2018)
Captain: Lentsa Motau
Coach: Theresa Rossouw
The Mpumalanga Sunbirds will be looking to improve on last year's dismal TNL finish, where they ended 9th.
The Sunbirds did not feature on the opening day and get their campaign underway against the Northern Cape Diamonds at 10:00 on Thursday.
Squad: Sanele Buthelezi, Maryke Coetzee, Keneiloe Kgasi, Tsakane Mbewe, Palesa Mbukwana, Atacia Mbuyane, Lentsa Motau, Nomsa Ngulube, Conny Phala, Linmari Potgieter, Michelle Schoeman, Hope Sibiya, Danelle van der Heever, Zelda Vorster.
Best TNL: 8th (2017, 2018, 2019)
Captain: Nthabiseng Mothutsi
Coach: Paulinah Thobakgale
While the Limpopo Baobabs probably have the coolest team name in the TNL, the side has failed to impress in previous tournaments.
The Baobabs are under the new leadership of Paulinah Thobakgale, who will be hoping to inspire her side.
Unfortunately, the Baobabs got off to a poor start in the TNL as they suffered an opening game 42-34 defeat to TNL debutants the Kingdom Queens.
Baobabs skipper Nthabiseng Mothusi stated that the team is well-prepared for whatever comes their way.
"We're just trying to take it one team at a time and we want to finish better than we did the previous season."
Squad: Zené de Waal, Nthabiseng Mothutsi, Theoner Mthombeni, Mmapula Hakala, Michelle de Nysschen, Harmony Mongwe, Shongile Hlungwana, Modjadji Ramorwalo, Sylvia Lebelo, Jaqueline Lukheri, Nompumelelo Matekula, Ditebogo Seoka, Mmasello Ledwaba, Merisca Steenkamp.
Northern Cape Diamonds
Best TNL: 8th (2014, 2015)
Captain: Clarissa Mpikwane
Coach: Karien Opperman
The Northern Cape Diamonds have struggled to make their mark in the TNL. However, with Karien Opperman at the helm, the side will be looking to bounce back and stun the netball fraternity this year.
The Diamonds did not feature on the opening day and get their campaign underway against the Mpumalanga Sunbirds at 10:00 on Thursday.
Squad: Zandré Smit, Eureka Mentoor, Bianca Pienaar, Clarissa Mpikwane, Monique van der Westhuizen, Stephanie Hanekom, Nthabiseng Hottie, Charissa Swanepoel, Dané Klopper, Arné Fourie, Dineo Mahlomaholo, Bethenie du Raan, Sinazo Njokweni, Roxanne Bonani.
KZN Kingdom Queens
Best TNL: Debut
Captain: Fezeka Sondgaba
Coach: Magda du Plessis
The KZN Kingdom Queens made their debut appearance in the TNL on Wednesday against the Limpopo Baobabs.
The Queens went on to pull off an impressive opening victory as they beat the Baobabs 42-34.
Squad: Jessica Erasmus, Thabisile Msomi, Nomfundo Mngomezulu, Sinethemba Mkhize, Sanelisiwe Xulu, Nonkanyiso Dlamini, Nolwazi Mathe, Jessica Duggan, Tarle Mathe, Luleka Ndyibithi, Siobhan McAlery, Amanda Ntshangase, Fezeka Sondgaba, Hlongwa Ngubane.
Western Cape Tornados
Best TNL: Debut
Captain: Yeukai Chamba
Coach: Danlee Mathews
The Western Cape Tornados also made their debut appearance in the TNL on Wednesday against the Eastern Cape Aloes.
The Tornados lost 34-29 but coach Danlee Mathews is still optimistic over their chances.
"I don't see it as a negative note," she said.
"It's a note where I can see where we can improve on. It's not a sprint, it's a marathon."
"We've just got to build from what we've put in place and tweak the little things we need to work on ."
Squad: Zaandré Barrett-Theron, Courtleigh Behr, Yeukai Chamba, Amber Coraizin, Jodee Johannes, Adri Kannemeyer, Almorette Landman, Leigh-Anne Phelekwa, Sasha-Lee Petersen, Rochelle Rossouw, Rieze Straeuli, Melanie Von Gunten, Francis Pieters, Anke Uys.