Not only will the fourth edition of the Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League (BFNPL) be the most competitive yet, but, with the fourth edition, comes a major bonus for the winning team.
Apart from the bragging rights as the country’s best netball province, the winning team will head off to New Zealand to compete in their national championship later this year, with all expenses paid.
The BFNPL will again be contested by ten teams. Each facing one another over six weekends, with the play-offs taking place on the last two weekends.
Each province has one team, with the exception of Gauteng, who has two teams participating. The ten teams are Limpopo Baobabs, Gauteng North Jaguars, Gauteng Golden Fireballs, North West Flames, Mpumalanga Sunbirds, Northern Cape Diamonds, Free State Crinums, KZN Kingdom Stars, Eastern Cape Aloes, and Western Cape Southern Stings.
The action gets underway on 21 April in Durban. After two rounds, it moves to Cape Town, and then to Bloemfontein, home of the Crinums (winners of the trophy 3 years in a row), for the final three weekends. It will be the first senior national netball tournament to be held in the Rose City since 1995.
This year is characterized by a high number of player movements. The semi-finalists of last year, namely the Flames, Jaguars, Stings and Crinums, are all affected by the loss of key players. This may well level the playing field, making it difficult to predict a winner or favourite, beforehand.
Only five members of the previous season’s Jaguars are present in this season’s squad of 15 players. They’ll have to do without the three Protea shooters; Lenize Potgieter (New Zealand league), Lindie Lombard (Fireballs), and Melissa Kotze (retired). Furthermore, there’s the absence of Ané Botha (Fireballs), and Jenie Steyn (Aloes). Zanele Vimbela who heads to north west. Other notable gains are Marlize de Bruin (Fireballs), and the experienced duo of Chrisna van Zyl and Rozanne Matthyse, returning to netball. They are two of several players returning to netball after a year or two on the side-line. Van Zyl, a goal shooter and veteran of 56 tests between 2009 and 2014, will turn 34 this year, making her one of the oldest players.
The Stings, who had their best campaign in 2016, finishing third, bid farewell to a wealth of experience with Erin Burger (Australia Super Netball), Adéle Niemand (retired), Mari-Lena Joubert (not available), and the captain of last year, Leanie Kleynhans-Cornelissen, all absent for various reasons.
The defending champs can no longer rely on the Proteas Karla Mostert and Lauren-Lee Christians. Mostert, the Player of the Series in 2015, plays in the new Australia league while Christians moved to East London. She’ll play for the Aloes.
The Flames lost the services of players such as captain Nadia Uys (Fireballs), Protea Sigi Burger (injured), and Jeanté Strydom (Jaguars).
Change in management, in the form of new head coaches, namely Maria Maiya (Diamonds), Marlie Nel (Sunbirds), Dumisani Chauke (Baobabs), and Madri Maritz (Kingdom Stars), added to the many changes in this year’s BFNPL.