TuksNetball will return for the fifth edition of Varsity Netball on 27 August, seeking to claim their first ever title in the competition. The team will be looking to go all the way this year, following their disappointing 55-56 home final loss last year to Pukke (North-West University). Perdeby got in touch with Head of Programme and Head Coach, Jenny van Dyk, to discuss her thoughts ahead of the 2017 campaign.

What have the team’s preparations been, leading into this year’s competition?

For me, I think what has been most important was our preparations that occurred last year directly after Varsity Netball. While most teams went into a rest phase after the competition, we decided to push through and put our players through an intensive six-week training programme to prepare our girls a little bit better for the 2017 sporting calendar. Following that loss in the final, we decided that it was necessary to push ourselves mentally, and so decided to dedicate time out of the November exam schedule to train our athletes in the heat, simulating one on one situations to improve the girls’ mental capacities. For this reason specifically, we sought out very hot and extreme conditions. Additionally, we have many athletes who perform for our national team and other teams outside the university structure, who we have made sure have received the appropriate and necessary match time leading into this year’s competition.

What were your ambitions for your team, coming into this year’s competition?

To win Varsity Netball is what we are preparing for, but we do understand that this is a big statement and it requires us to back it up. We do this by making sure that we have a […] system aimed at allowing students to take responsibility and make good decisions on court. The moment you’ve got that, the performances will automatically follow. That will then be one of our main focus areas this season, as we look to claim the trophy for [the] first time.

Given the success of various sporting clubs at UP in 2017, does the team have an added incentive coming into this year’s competition?

Yes, definitely. I think the biggest motivation is obviously all the other teams at UP doing so well, but we need to be careful because that also has the potential [to] become our biggest enemy. For this reason, we are taking the positives out of the other club’s performances, but we remain focused solely on our own performance. Having gone unbeaten last season and falling just short in the final is another incentive we will […] use to elevate our performances this campaign.

How important is Varsity Netball in providing a stepping stone to students looking to progress onwards to professional netball?

Varsity Netball has an incredibly important role. The transfer of athletes to the national team in recent years has been immense. We have players who have been called up into the Protea squad and who have [had] the added pressure of balancing that with Varsity Netball. This is positive however, because players get extra game time. We also rely heavily on squad depth for this exact reason, and so youngsters in the squad are given the opportunities to prove themselves and grow in confidence and ability.

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