Time to go for Proteas

JENNY van Dyk, coach of the Spar Proteas. | Archives

JENNY van Dyk, coach of the Spar Proteas. | Archives

Published Apr 28, 2024


JENNY van Dyk loves watching things grow. She has a green thumb, and when not striding the length of a netball court, the new Proteas coach has her hands wrist-deep in the soil, thinking and venting.

“I love gardening,” Van Dyk revealed exclusively to Independent Newspapers. “It is my go to.

“I think it is because the plants can’t talk back. They can just show me their love. I have a lot of discussions that I go through, where I offload everything – my frustrations and irritations.

“When I win a trophy, the next day you will find me in my garden, all alone and just working through everything, finishing off all those discussions in my head.”

One would expect that Van Dyk has been thinking a lot recently, plotting the evolution of the SPAR Proteas in the coming months. And while the next step might be somewhat obscured, the objectives are much clearer – build a national senior netball team that can compete against the best in the world and win medals when the 2026 Commonwealth Games and Netball World Cup 2027 comes around.

Much was achieved during former coach Norma Plummer’s tenure in the hot seat, but there were also disappointments, such as a sixth-place finish at last year’s World Cup, hosted in Cape Town.

So, while Van Dyk has been digging in her garden and pruning her flowers, she has been contemplating what it means to be South African, and how that will translate on court against the top nations. For you see, there is an unshakable belief that finding that unique approach will unlock success

“I have thought about it a lot, and for me it is about reaching a gold standard through the truly South African way of playing netball,” she explained.

“But how does that look, how does it reflect within our players?

“That is the starting point. In order for us to get to those gold performances, we need to tick all those smaller boxes to make sure that at the end of the day we have a great national programme. It must give them the necessary support and guidance (at all levels), which is run as professionally as possible so that we can get those results.

“The players wanted to do much better in the World Cup, so they were quite disappointed. But I think we have got a new phase that we can work through and that we can find the solutions to the problems that we did have previously.”

Earlier this week, Van Dyk and assistant coach Zanele Mdodana announced the 30 women that they will attempt to mould into a team that can consistently challenge for victories. Van Dyk has very clear ideas as to what will be required from this group as they begin their world towards greater things.

Said Van Dyk, about what she is looking for in her selections: “First up, discipline.

“It is fantastic to see a player that can put the team first, and has the right attitude and who is willing to work hard. You cannot go out there and motivate a player. There is no time.

“You need a highly-motivated player stepping into our little circle and starting with that in their performances. We can’t drag you with.

“We are looking for leaders and for players with a high work rate, who can carry the intensity; and who want to work and who want to train everyday and all day long.

“They must have the ability to read the game and understand how important it is to know their own play, but also the play of your opponents. They need to be an analyst as well. They need to be able to see what is happening against them.”

South Africa are currently ranked fifth in the world, behind Jamaica, England, New Zealand and No 1 ranked Australia. It is a position to be proud off, but Van Dyk and Co know that there remains a considerable gap between the Proteas and those perched above the country.

Smashing through that ceiling will be a difficult task. Netball in South Africa is only now coming to grips with a degree of professionalism, while Australia, New Zealand and England have been playing the sport from as far back as the late 1970s.

Getting to that level remains netball’s biggest white whale, but if there is one person that understands how to implement such a structure, it is Van Dyk. After all, she did so at the Gauteng Jaguars with great success in a semi-professional league, making the Tshwane-based outfit the undisputed champions of South Africa, winning six of the last seven Telkom Netball League (TNL) titles.

“The countries that are ranked higher than us have well-structured programmes,” Van Dyk explained.

“They have been doing it for years and they are not waiting for us to catch up. They have their own plans.

“It is about focusing on ourselves and understanding what we are up against. We have to make sure that we bring all the opportunities that are needed at the right time for the right reasons for our players to improve.

“The TNL is such an important part of that. We need this league to run at the same level that the international leagues are running at the moment and where a lot of our players are currently playing.

"We have to give our players enough time on court to get them more experienced quicker.”

Speaking of the TNL, the 2024 edition tipped-off on Friday, and continues through this weekend at the Ellis Park Arena in Johannesburg. The league, Van Dyk hopes, will become an integral part of her plans as she builds her team culture and stamps her authority on the national team.

Van Dyk sees the TNL as not only a developmental pipeline, but also the perfect environment to stress test her preferred options. To do that, it will require the buy-in of all involved, including sponsors, to make it a world class competition at the standard of the Netball Super League in the UK.

That will be aided by the participation of some heavyweight national players that include Karla Pretorius, Refiloe Nketsa, Ané Retief, Tarle Mathe, Boitumelo Mahloko, Jamie van Wyk and Kamogelo Maseko.

“The TNL is doing a great job in assisting us in identifying and developing younger players,” said Van Dyk.

“It is definitely a benefit if we have some of our players in international leagues because they train and play against some of the more steeled players from other countries. I would like to see the TNL become a league that doest stand back for any other league, where it is just as tough and just as competitive as any other league.

“It is in that movement when it gets tough, when the score is very tight. That is where we need most of our work done for our national squad as well.

“In that moment where we are in a position to win, what are we doing in those final five, six minutes and how are we managing ourselves in those moments?

“We need to teach our players to be a lot more clever and play with a lot more court intelligence in those moments. For that to happen, we need a competitive league,” she concluded.

SPAR Proteas Squad: Ine-Mari Venter, Rolene Streutker, Elmere van der Berg, Kamogelo Maseko, Owethu Ngubane, Nichole Taljaard, Khanyisa Chawane, Refiloe Nketsa, Tarle Mathe, Jeante Strydom, Jamie van Wyk, Boitumelo Mahloko, Karla Pretorius, Nicola Smith, Ane Retief; SPAR Proteas – Training Partners: Tinita van Dyk, Muhluri Hlatshwayo, Sian Moore, Nomfundo Mngomezulu, Shannen Bartlett, Sanmarie Visser, Syntiche Kabuya