The defending Varsity Netball champions retained their title, seeing of a spirited Tuks effort, in a final that went down to the wire in Pretoria on Monday evening.

Each team scored off of each other’s first centre passes as both teams were eager to impress in the opening encounters. Long passages of play from both sides characterised the first quarter as a strong defensive unit were in full force. It was back and forth as Pukke led throughout before Tuks led for first time in the 10th minute.

Pukke regained their lead in the sixth minute of the second quarter after a couple of crucial interceptions by the away team. The North-west University made two technical changes as Monique Reyneke made an appearance, but Tuks evened it up with three minutes left in the quarter. But the defending champions regained their lead in the second quarter and went into the second half 27-25 up.

It was a fast-paced start to the second half and Pukke looked to build on their advantage. It was all set as a power play was called in the beginning of the quarter, which saw NWU outscore the University of Pretoria by 3-2, to add to their four-point lead. Proteas duo Burger and Stoltz displayed their big match temperament as they were cool, calm and collected in the shooting circle. It was an incredible comeback from the Tuks team after losing goal attacker Melissa Kotze due to injury. Ine-Mari Venter was the replacement and combined well with the experienced New-Zealand-league-bound Potgieter to level scores at the end of the third quarter

The scene was set for a thrilling final quarter and the finalists did not disappoint. UP-Tuks were able to build up a narrow two-goal lead before the power play handed the defending champions an opportunity to show their composure and outscore the home team. The crowd were on the edge of their seats as it was back and forth; the lead constantly changing hands. It would be a battle of the goal circle as Burger and Stoltz pulled an ever so narrow win for the North-West University. The final score: 55-56 in favour of the visiting Pukke.

FNB Player of the match: Marlize de Bruin (Tuks)

FNB Player of the Tournament: Shadine van der Merwe (Tuks)

 Melissa Kotze, Lenize Potgieter, Ine-Mari Venter, Chantelle Swart, Tshina Mdau, Izette Lubbe, Marlize de Bruin, Shongile Hlugwane, Shadine van der Merwe (captain), Jasmine Ziegelmeier, Juzelri Garbers, Unelle Snyman

NWU-Pukke: Sigrid Burger, Renske Stoltz, Marna Claasens, Kifiloe Tsotetsi, Nicole Amiras, Mandolien Hermanus, Romé Dreyer, Monique Reyneke, Chante Bester (captain), Jeante Strydom, Simone Rabie, Zandre Kruger

By Theriso Lethuloe