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The road to the 2022 semi-finals

After three bumper weekends of action in the 2022 Varsity Netball tournament, all eyes will be on Bloemfontein and Stellenbosch on Monday (10 October) for what is expected to be two pulsating semi-finals.

At 17:00 defending champions, Kovsies and NWU (winners in 2015 and 2016) will take to the court in the Callie Human Hall. Last year’s runners-up Maties then host first-time semi-finalists UJ in the clash of the Maroon Machine against the Orange Army at the Coetzenburg Indoor Centre at 19:00.

Kovsies vs NWU

Kovsies, on the hunt for a record fifth Varsity Netball title, had a stumbling start to this year’s competition with back-to-back losses against Maties (53-57) and UJ (43-54). Coach Burta de Kock however wasn’t fazed, saying “We managed to work out different combinations and we are excited to get another crack at it.”

This they certainly did, beating arch-rivals Tuks in round 5 (58-48) and winning the see-saw battle Monday against the Eagles (65-60), now standing between them and a historic feat.

At the beginning of the tournament, NWU coach Elsunet du Plessis told Varsity Sports the aim this year “is to get a spot in the semi-finals”. Despite Monday’s nail-biter and a narrow loss against Maties (51-56) earlier in the tournament, the team’s 9 bonus points pushed them to second position on the log after the round-robin stages.

Looking at the Varsity Netball semi-final history between Kovsies and NWU, the 2022 edition between these two university powerhouses is squaring up to be a tightly contested affair. Kovsies were victorious in 2014 (51-45) and 2021 (66-65) while NWU went on to the final in 2015 (56-48) and 2017 (53-37).

Head-to-head record (all matches since 2013)

– Kovsies 8; NWU 5; one draw (45-all, 2014)

– Biggest victory: Kovsies 76-52 (2021); NWU 58-36 (2016)

– Closest margin: Kovsies 66-65 (2021); NWU 48-44 (2017)

Maties vs UJ

Maties are appearing in their seventh consecutive Varsity Netball semi-final with the hope to advance to the final for the fourth time and claim their first title. For the second year running, the Stellenbosch team is also the only undefeated team in the competition, with their biggest win coming over TUT (86-21) while they managed to sneak past UJ (44-42) and Tuks (57-55) in narrow victories.

Danielle Esterhuizen during the Varsity Netball match between Madibaz and UJ at Coetzenburg Sports Centre in Stellenbosch on 27 August, 2021

But as coach Zanele Mdodana indicated before this year’s competition even got underway, “The focus is not on winning … We are ready for a life-changing experience.”

And what a transformation coach Bongi Msomi has engineered at UJ in the last couple of years. The Protea captain managed to turn 30+ goal defeats in 2019 to just a handful in 2021 and this year into victories over Kovsies (54-43) and Tuks (53-51). Apart from the two-goal loss against Maties in round 4, UJ’s only other defeat came against NWU (60-48) in this year’s first match.

Three weeks ago UJ assistant coach Nomsa Zungu said all they wanted to do this year was perform well, “It’s not about how many games we win, but it is about setting up our own goals and then achieving them.” Mission accomplished.

Head-to-head record (all matches since 2013)

– Maties 9; UJ 0

– Biggest victory: 69-27 (2017)

– Closest margin: 47-46 (2013; 44-42 (2022)

*Both semi-finals are broadcast live on SuperSport. by Liryn de Jager

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