The statistics will forever show that Tuks is the 2023 Varsity Netball champions.
Last night (18 September 2023) in the Rembrandt Hall, Tuks beat UJ 63-61 in the final. The statistics will also show that Tuks were unbeaten in nine games and that it is the third time they ended up victorious in the Varsity Tournament.
But numbers on paper can never truly reflect what happens on the court between the lines. There are no numbers to describe how the humdinger of a game played out. Movie scriptwriters would have battled to concoct a more riveting plot than the Tuks and UJ players did in nearly 74 minutes.
After the third quarter, it looked like a done deal that Tuks would win. They were, after all, leading by 10 goals. With the start of the last quarter, they upped their lead to 11. But there is a good reason why, often in sports, there is talk of a certain "lady that needs to sing" before anything can be taken for granted.
UJ called their power play. Within 120 seconds, everything changed. UJ wiped out the deficit. Then it was game on. After 60 minutes of play, the score was tied at 51-all. It meant that the final was decided in extra time. At one stage, UJ had a four-goal lead. But still, the "battle" continued. The Tuks "Girls" were never going to give up.
Tuks beat UJ 63-61 in the final of the Varsity Netball Tournament. (Image: Reg Caldecott)
Tuks' head coach Jenny van Dyk called it a “great'” game for South African netball.
"I love it when a game goes into extra time. That is when you get to evaluate the character of the players. What a performance. I am so proud of my girls. They had to pull out all the stops to win. You can never simulate something like that in training," said an elated Van Dyk.
When asked what happened in the fourth quarter where Tuks seemingly self-destructed, Van Dyk said, "You can't only defend. You need to keep on attacking.
"UJ were quite clinical in their defence. We were forced to feed from far and long. It took us some time to adapt to doing so. It nearly cost us the game. Kudos to the team who refused to give up.
"What excites me about our Varsity campaign is that we remained unbeaten and that the players kept playing better with each game. They saved their best for last."
As has become the norm when Tuks plays, Phophi Nematangari was again brilliant on defence. She has finetuned intercepting to a fine art. So it was no surprise that she got the Player of the Match award. It was the third time in nine games that she managed to do so. It is an amazing feat, as Nematangari is not the tallest of players.
Nematangari abides by a simple philosophy when it comes to playing netball. And that is not to allow herself to be intimidated.
"Coach Jenny (Van Dyk) keeps telling me to be fearless and not to allow myself to be fazed by the reputations of other players. I should only focus on what I do best. And that is what I do."
On how the team managed to recover from UJ's blitzkrieg in the fourth quarter, Nematangari said, "We went back to doing the basics and back to playing the standard of netball, which took us to the final."
Tuks also won the Varsity Tournament in 2017 and 2019.