While an apparent breach of Covid-19 protocols caused some controversy on the sidelines on Monday, the ongoing pandemic proved its effects were also going to be difficult to avoid on court this week, with performance levels taking a knock on the opening day of the Spar National Netball Championships.
Off the court, organisers seemed to be teetering on the edge of a coronavirus catastrophe.
There were health and safety protocols in place, including screening and the enforcing of sanitisation and masks.
Though the event had been expected to be held in a bio-bubble in Bela Bela, however, teams were staying at different venues.
In addition, over 1 100 people attended the opening ceremony in a hall on Monday, which seemingly defied government rules restricting indoor gatherings to less than 250 people.
At one point, Netball SA president Cecilia Molokwane called on the entire room to remove their masks in order to make a joint statement against gender based violence, and the majority of players complied.
The federation, however, was satisfied it was operating within government’s level one lockdown regulations.
“We were under the 50% allowed as the venue holds 3 000,” said NSA compliance officer Claudine Claassen.
“The hall was sanitised before the opening be venue management and each person attending was asked to sanitise on entering.
“Everyone other than speakers were asked to wear face masks and chairs were placed at a 1.5-metre distance from each other.”
Meanwhile, following Mangaung’s decision to pull out in advance, Eastern Cape teams Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City also withdrew from the Senior A division on the eve of the annual championships due to fears of a spread of Covid-19.
This left only five teams competing for the top-flight title.
With only a few squads having dominated the A division in recent years, Tshwane assistant coach Ivy Masebe was concerned the absence of some teams might amplify a lack of depth after her team coasted to a 67-13 victory in their opening clash against Ekurhuleni.
“We trained so hard for this tournament, expecting opponents to give us tough games,” Masebe said.
“It felt too easy, like we were almost warming up. We are hoping the tournament will get tougher because we prepared so well.”