The 2023 FNB Varsity Netball tournament ended in fierce contest between the persistent University of Johannesburg (UJ) and the undefeated University of Pretoria (UP-Tuks) on Monday evening, 18 September 2023 in Tshwane. The closing UJ-UP Tuks match was a mouthwatering finale which ended in a 50-all draw at fulltime, going into a 14-minute extra time in which UJ narrowly lost 63-61 to UP-Tuks.
The final was a repeat of the opening match of the 2023 tournament in which UJ lost 53-58 at Wits University. UJ were the underdogs going into the final, with UP-Tuks having won all their matches of the tournament. While UJ played in the FNB Varsity Netball for the first time ever, UP-Tuks collected their third title in a jam-packed Rembrandt Hall at UP-Tuks.
The two teams scored from both ends in the opening quarter. UJ made errors in passing the ball in attack, while UP-Tuks intercepted to score. However, UJ’s Muhluri Hlatshwayo and Owethu Ngubane scored goals for UJ to stay close to the UP-Tuks lead. The first quarter ended in a 14-11 score in favour of UP-Tuks.
In the second quarter, UJ recovered and levelled matters just a few minutes into the second quarter. However, UP-Tuks regained their confidence and scored more goals to lead with a four-goal difference again. At the halftime break, the score line stood at 26-22 in favour of the hosts.
UP-Tuks continued to score in the third quarter, extending their lead by a 10-goal gap. UJ’s Boitumelo Mahloko combination with Cornelia Mupenda in defense worked overtime to ensure that UP-Tuks did not lead with a big scoreline. However, the hosts called for a powerplay and scored six goals while UJ responded with two goals.
The closing quarter saw UJ score more goals to reduce the deficit, while Tuks was still leading with 9/10 goal difference. UJ managed to reach the 40-goal mark in the last quarter, reducing Tuks’ lead to seven points. Coach Bongiwe Msomi and her technical team called for a strategic powerplay and scored four points with five minutes remaining on the clock. The Orange Army managed to level matters in the last minutes of the game, forcing the game into extra time.
UJ led with a marginal two goals at the start of the first seven minutes of extra time. However, the visitors’ ball handling errors mid court saw them relinquish their lead with just four minutes left to play. UP-Tuks turned the score in their favour, taking a 3-goal lead. UJ responded with a goal, but it was too late to equalize again with the final score at 63-61 in favour of UP-Tuks who were became FNB Varsity Netball champions for the third time.
The game remained closely contested throughout, although the Orange Army chased the score in all four quarters. Ngubane fed Muhluri Hlatshwayo dangerous balls in the goal circle to keep UJ in the contest. On the other side of the court Alice Kennon made sure Tuks stayed in the lead for most parts of the game.
Quarter scores: Q1:14-11 | Q2: 26-22 | Q3:43-33 | Q4: 51-51
Player of the Match: Phophi Nematangari (UP-Tuks)
FNB Player of the Tournament: Sanmarie Visser (NWU)
Suzuki Players’ Player of the Tournament: Phophi Nematangari (UP-Tuks)
UJ Squad: Muhluri Hlatshwayo, Henlize Basson, Zene de Waal, Zanell Blignaut, Owethu Ngubane, Londeka Buthelezi, Boitumelo Mahloko, Sanelisiwe Ntobela, Yanke Broodryk, Adivhaho Tshivhiahuvhi, Cornelia Mupenda, Mukhatshelwa Tshisikhawe.
UP-Tuks Squad: Alice Kennon, Amber Marshall, Caroline Paul, Kamogelo Maseko, Kylie van Wyk, Luca Keun, Marichelle Visagie, Melissa van Zyl, Milla Coetzee, Nompha Raphalalani, Phophi Nematangari, Zionne Grobler.