By Quintin van Jaarsveld
Chantal Bestwick and Zandie Ndawonde are on the cusp of realising their goal of playing on the grand stage after being included in the Kingdom Stars side who will represent KwaZulu-Natal in the newly launched Brutal Fruit Netball Cup.
The dynamic South Coast duo are the only Southern KwaZulu-Natal players to have made the final KwaZulu-Natal squad after they impressed in the recent trials at Hoy Park in Durban.
Coincidently, they are good friends and both work at Port Shepstone High School, Bestwick as a teacher and Ndawonde as a teacher’s assistant.
They also share their expertise with the learners as coaches of the Under-14 and Under-16 netball teams respectively.
South Africa have long lacked a top national netball competition and, after patiently biding their time over the past few years, Bestwick and Ndawonde are relishing the prospect of playing in Africa’s first semi-professional netball league.
The Brutal Fruit Netball Cup, which was launched by Netball South Africa (NSA) last month, incorporates 10 teams from all nine provinces in South Africa and will be played over five weeks.
The competition will get underway on 10 May and culminate with the final on 7 June.
All matches will be staged in the Rembrandt Hall at the University of Pretoria and will be broadcast live on SuperSport on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the competition.
Both Bestwick and Ndawonde were surprised when they heard they had been selected.
“I feel extremely honoured and blessed to have been selected,” wing attack Bestwick told eHowz!t.
“We are very proud to be part of such an elite group of players and even prouder to be representing the Ugu District.
“Personally, I’m very excited and cannot wait for the opportunity to be playing with and against the best players in the country,” Bestwick added.
The 30-year-old former Mermaids star praised NSA for establishing the competition, saying: “It’s wonderful that the South African sporting bosses have decided to create a semi-professional netball league and walking the talk in assisting women’s sport.
“It’s a step in the right direction and moves us closer to equality for women in sport.”
Bestwick and Ndawonde met in 2004 when they played for the Ugu District Municipality team in the Kwanaloga Games and Bestwick believes no-one is more deserving of the impending opportunity than Ndawonde.
“I’m extremely happy for Zandie, she’s very talented and I have never seen a player grow as BB [Ndawonde] has.”
Ndawonde said she cannot wait to play alongside Bestwick and Proteas ace Zanele Mdodana for the Kingdom Stars.
“I am so excited, I can’t explain the feeling,” said the 27-year-old wing defence.
“To be in the team is an honour and a surprise and the fact that Chants is also in the team makes it even more special. We have been friends for a long time and we’ve got each other’s back.
“To think that Zanele – my idol – will be sharing a court with me is amazing. I look up to her and she inspires me. We have two SA players in our team, which makes it even more exciting.”
Both players praised the influence Rita van der Spuy, Bestwick’s mother and top local coach, has had on their careers.
“She’s our mother, mentor and coach,” Ndawonde said of Van der Spuy, who gave her the nickname BB (Busy Body) when she first saw her on the court.
“She has been so good to us and believes in us. She’s a gift from above.”
Ndawonde added that she plans to use the experience she gains in the Brutal Fruit Netball Cup to help develop the players she coaches at Port Shepstone High School.
“I view it as a great achievement to represent the Ugu District at this level and endeavour to help take netball on the South Coast to an even higher level through the young stars that I’m coaching.”