Quota system rears its ugly head once again

Linda Moreotsene

Linda Moreotsene

The South African Netball Championships won by Gauteng North in Durban on Saturday have once more brought the quota system debate to the forefront.

The issue was immediately picked up by several journalists when it emerged that the teams' overall performance will be affected by how integrated the players were.

For instance, a team that brought with it four black players and five white were awarded five points, even before they actually stepped onto the court.

Conversely, teams such as Zululand, whose players were all black, and Gauteng East, who brought nine players who were all white to the championships, were awarded no points.

In addition, six goals were added to the integrated side's score when they came against these two teams to further punish them.

One of the concerns brought up was whether this policy would weaken teams, and allow non-performing regions to unfairly win the championships.

According to Elize Kotze, coach of winners Gauteng North, all her players were in the squad purely on merit, and the colour combinations on court made no difference in her team's performance.

"I don't like it when people call my players quota players - and thankfully, after being underestimated, they have shut their detractors up. I have four black players, and we frequently had three on court during matches. In the centre, I played Vasta Mhlongo and Keneilwe Mothibi had creativity, and they were brilliant.

"Also, my wing back Nthabiseng Mothibi played in all the matches because I could not afford to rest her. therefore, at that level, they are most definitely in my squad on merit," Kotze said.

Kotze cautioned that anything that is forced and unnatural might stunt the spontaneity and growth of the game.

In addition to Mhlongo, who was voted the best centre player at the tournament, and Keneilwe Mothibi, Kotze also had the player regarded as the most intimidating wing defence in the country, Rozanne Naidoo, and Nthabiseng Mushi.

But the secret to Gauteng North's success this year was that they just had the players, regardless of colour, who had what it took to win.

This was demonstrated in the final match, when, trailing by six goals and with their goal attack Alicia Senekal badly struggling to score, Annelle Besselaar took over.

Besselaar, who at the end of the tournament was voted most valuable player and the best goal shooter, took over and converted the balls supplied by the centre players.

When endorsing the system, the president of Netball SA, Mimi Mthethwa appealed to everyone concerned to give the practice a chance.

"I think the fact that the top teams are integrated shows that we are on the right track," Mthethwa said.

Indeed, the top four teams in the country - Gauteng North, North West South, Western Province and Boland - adhered to it.