For the first time ever, the senior netball team of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) played in the semi-final of the Varsity Netball tournament after their impressive showing in the past group stages. On Monday, 10 October 2022, UJ took on hosts Stellenbosch University (SU Maties) at the Coetzenburg Hall with hopes to edge closer to lifting the trophy in their final match of the tournament.
The clash was a tough encounter, with UJ seeking a spot in the final two teams to battle for the trophy while Maties had not lost a single match in their 2022 Varsity Netball tournament. Leading up to the final, the UJ ladies were confident having won three consecutive matches in Pretoria and Potchefstroom in the previous bumper weekends. The Orange Army had also won against defending champions, the University of Free State (Kovsies).
Playing on a Monday evening, UJ opened the first quarter well taking the lead through Nomfundo Mngomezulu. The hosts did not sit back as they kept the points difference to a minimal. Coach Bongiwe Msomi’s team was persistent on leading the score line, going into the second quarter with just a point separating the two teams (9-8).
Regular game changers, Tarle Mathe and Muhluri Hlatswayo, did not play the match due to injuries. In the second quarter, UJ dominated play though Maties continued to edge closer by piling on the pressure with a 18-16 score – only two points separated the two teams at the half time break.
“It hurts to lose at this level of the tournament. However, We gave it our all – we played our hearts out on court. Next week, we have to fight for the bronze medal,” says Liza Kruger, the team’s captain.
Nomfundo Mngomezulu also shared Liza’s sentiments that there is still a match to be played next week and that she is proud of the team and their performance. “It is amazing that we had our UJ Orange Army fans traveling all the way here to support us. They took such a long bus ride to be with us here in the Western Cape, we are really grateful. They were also with us in Pretoria and Bloemfontein – I hope that their support continues because it is vital for the team morale. We take the next bronze match as a final and we promise to do our very best,” says Mngomezulu.
The UJ-Maties match was also a battle of former and current SPAR Proteas captains, Zanele Mdodana and Msomi, who showed through their teams the intensity of netball competence from start to finish.
The end-to-end game was intense with both teams ending the third quarter with a 25-all tie.In the fourth quarter, UJ started well while Maties kept them at bay. Power play was called and Maties added more points to overtake UJ. The UJ ladies upped the intensity of the game to score rake in additional points, but it was not to be as Maties finally won the match by 43-35.
UJ will contest for the bronze medal against the University of Free State (UFS).