The Brutal Fruit Netball Cup wll be played in Pretoria from May 10 to June 8, less than two months before the Glasgow Games, Netball South Africa confirmed yesterday,
With Kotze previously relying on a cancelled four-nation series against England, Jamaica and Malawi to tune up for the Commonwealth showpiece, she said the launch of the new domestic league was a relief.
“The court time the players are going to get in high intensity games is crucial for our Commonwealth preparation,” Kotze said.
“I was really worried, because the series in Dubai was cancelled, but they’re now going to get more than enough time with ball in hand.”
The annual league will offer SA players a chance to play the sport at a semi-professional level for the first time, and is expected to be expanded into a fully professional annual league down the line.
At this stage the majority of the players in the national squad are either studying or working full-time jobs, and Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula urged players not to drop their tertiary ambitions to rely on financial incentives from the sport.
“Our netball girls are our most educated sports stars in South Africa, and the girls must not abandon their schooling,” said Mbalula, a leading roleplayer in the formation of the league.
The inaugural edition of the competition will include 10 teams, consisting of South Africa’s top players, with the goal of including players from other African countries down the line.
The prize money and pay structure for players has not yet been confirmed, but the league is seen as a groundbreaking competition for netball on the continent.
“South Africa has always been a role model for netball in Africa, and this will be a wonderful opportunity for top African players as well,” Kotze said.