July 14, 2024

LONG READ: Knowing Spar Proteas stalwart Lenize Potgieter

How a Grade Four netball player became the top sharpshooter for the Spar Proteas. 

CAPE TOWN – Spar Proteas goal shooter Lenize Potgieter’s random school netball love turned to gold when she went all the way to represent her country internationally. From Polokwane in Limpopo, Potgieter is the all-time leading goalscorer for the South African national netball team.

A love of netball with her school friends in Grade four is what led Potgieter to become the star she is now.

“So it was so much fun growing up with no pressure whatsoever,” said Potgieter. slot qris

“I think it was just about being in a team environment and meeting new people, making my little friends. I still have one or two friends left who actually started playing netball with me in grades three and four.”

The 29-year-old Manchester Thunder goal shooter and attacker didn’t know where she would be with netball growing up.

Potgieter says up until the age of 17 she didn’t know South Africa had a national netball team.

“It was maybe in grade 12 or university, first year of university that I actually knew, oh there’s like a baby Spar Proteas team sbobet and then there’s this massive Spar Proteas first team,” she said.

“So I was like, oh, this is so cool, I didn’t even know that. So no, I don’t think I would have a career in netball, but I’m so, so grateful that I did slash do.”

Proteas debut

Potgieter represented Limpopo at respective provincial netball tournaments in her junior years.

She played for the Gauteng Jaguars in the Brutal Fruit Netball Cup for three years as well as represented her university in the local varsity championship.

But it was in 2014 when she made the international breakthrough that saw her earning a call from the national colours. It was in Glasgow, Scotland where Potgieter was part of the South African team in the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

“I didn’t expect it at all, I just knew that we were playing against the Free State Crinums, the Jaguars were playing against the Crinums and something just combinations didn’t work,”

“Jenny van Dyk called me onto the court and I was like what are you doing? I think we didn’t win but I think I did have a good time. I was scared like my legs were shaking and my knees were trembling. That’s the word yeah so it was amazing getting a call that day.

“I actually made a debut for Brutal Fruit I got a call up from the Proteas saying that they’ve pulled me into the Proteas squad and then I’m going to like they want me to come and trials got to play against Scotland in 2014 in Cape Town and then was told listen you’re going to the 2014 Commonwealth Games I was like what are you for real are you serious not expecting that at all.

2015 Netball World Cup

As young as she was, having been called up from the Proteas team a year before to represent South Africa in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Potgieter was called to the Proteas final team for the Netball World Cup in Sydney, her first World Cup.

“It’s always an honour being selected to go to a World Cup for your country. There’s like a moment where you think oh no I really don’t want to go ever ever,” she added.

“I was very happy about the selection, I was very excited and I was proud to be selected for the Proteas team for my first World Cup.

But things went from good to better for Potgieter after the World Cup gates of olympus as she was signed to play overseas.

Netball Super League outfit in the United Kingdom, Team Bath came knocking at her door. She says moving to a new country as young as she was, made her nervous but knew it was what she wanted.

“Obviously, I had to go over with Karla [Pretorius] and I mean at that time I was really, really scared of her. Only in the last couple of years have we become good friends,” she said.

“Yeah, but obviously defenders scare me. We had to live together. We had to play together and we had to travel together.

“So that was something new, also going away to a foreign country to play netball, you don’t know what the setup is, but you know what, that was a great stepping stone for me. I’m very happy that I first went to Bath before going over to any other league because that prepared me for what was coming.”

With her career booming, playing overseas, Potgieter’s path was clear as she went on to play for a few clubs overseas in different countries.

She then played for two New Zealand sides Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic and Southern Steel before she moved to Australia to don jerseys of Queensland Firebirds and Adelaide Thunderbirds respectively.

It was only last season when Potgieter returned to the UK after she was signed by another Netball Super League side Manchester Thunder.

She says she has learned a lot in the different leagues she played in.

“So I think it is all about the experience you gain from wherever you go, so with every league you have different styles of play,” she added.

“So once I got to play in every league, now I have added a few tools to my toolbox and whenever I need a certain tool I just take it out and hopefully for the best I can put up against me.

“It’s been a rocky career but ups and downs, long distances, loneliness, and burning out but you know what in this process I got to meet best friends, make best friends, make memories for life and also see beautiful countries.”

Mental health

Potgieter, who has 89 international caps under her name, was unfortunately excluded from the Proteas team for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham after she wasn’t medically cleared as per then coach Dorette Badenhorst.

She made an announcement on Instagram, following a nervous breakdown she had, that made her take a six-month break from the court.

“I did have a think about it because a lot of people asked why I wasn’t going to Northern Ireland, or why I wasn’t playing, or what was going on. Why am I missing in action from the Netball South Africa pages and team announcements and stuff,m,” reveals Potgieter.

“So, yeah, I thought I’d just go public with it. I didn’t have any problem with that because I don’t see anything that’s wrong with saying that you’re having a bit of trouble and that you need some help. I think that is very normal. – and I think that is very human.

“And I wish that more elite athletes would do that just to help people who are going through the same thing but aren’t experiencing like I’m gonna put it or just thinking that they might be you’re not strong enough so it was easy coming out publicly about it.

“I’d rather not go into details about what caused it but whatever caused it had to happen because like this year was one of the best netball years of my life and you had to miss the Commonwealth Games as a result of how much of a family and your support during that time.

“I got heaps of support from my family and from my friends and from supporters so now they were very accommodating. They were very positive, always sending messages or voice notes or emails or voicemails whatever you call it and just like supporting me I haven’t heard anything negative from anyone.”

Home World Cup

Lenize’s third World Cup on home soil was cut short after she was ruled out due to injury.

She believes even though her journey was cut short she added value to the team.

Coach Norma Plummer decided not to release Potgieter but to keep her with the team for the rest of the campaign.

“I was that high you’re feeling right now. Yes, at the time I didn’t feel great. I mean this is now the third big competition that I’ve missed out on because of an injury,” she said.

“But I had the opportunity to play against one of the world’s best teams and yeah enjoying it and playing in front of my home crowd wearing the dress they specially made and it meant a lot you know so it was great being with the team there.

“Not being sent home because I felt like I did add some help from the side on some experience and you know I’m feeling better right now and just taking the needed rehab and recovery time before whatever happens next.”

With South Africa hosting a successful World Cup for the first time on the African continent, Potgieter knows how much of a legacy it will leave to the younger upcoming generation.

“I think it shows the World Cup in South Africa. They’re just going to think of how much singing and dancing and how the atmosphere and how beautiful Cape Town is and how beautiful South Africa actually is,” she added.

“It’s not just negative like most people would think. There are beautiful parts of it and they experienced one of them. Hopefully, we went up Table Mountain with a few of them, hiking Lion’s Head, and having a few wines, but you are ultimately just enjoying South Africa.

Family support

Family has been a strong support to many sports personalities and it has been the case for Potgieter as well.

We have seen the confidence in players when they know that their families are in the stands watching them.

Potgieter has huge praise for her family who stuck with her through thick and thin, supporting her.

“Family support was and is still amazing. They’ve never stopped caring about my netball career or how I’m doing or where I’m going,” she said.

“They’re always backing me, they’re always behind me, they always go wherever I am. I know my father went to the 2015 World Cup in Sydney, and then my father and my mother went to the Liverpool World Cup four years ago.

“Obviously it’s been like an African well this year but they still made the trip from the Garden Route up to Cape Town, and stayed there for the entire time even though I wasn’t playing so the support has never gone away and only grew stronger.”

Inspiration

As a top class sportswoman, Potgieter says she looks to other players from whom she is able to draw inspiration to do better.

One of those players she looks up to the most is Tongan goal shooter Cat Tuivaiti.

“My role model at this stage would be Tongan goal shooter Cat Tuivaiti. She actually played goal shooter for the Tonga team this year in the World Cup. She is just an amazing player. Her presence is so intimidating. She’s a force to be reckoned with,” shared Potgieter.

“She’s smart, she’s accurate, she has the fastest hands, skills, like she’s really an inspiration to draw from.

“But I think it’s also just making my family proud that I put out there the talent that God has given me. I always want to play for him because in the Bible it says we have to use the talents that he gives us and through that we like we worship him and give thanks to him. So I think he’s the person who motivates me to do the most and inspires me to do the most.”

Future

Having achieved a lot and being the leading top goalscorer for the Proteas, Potgieter says it’s time to heal and recover from the injuries and take it one step at a time.

She says she doesn’t want to think much about the future.

“I’m taking it literally week by week at this stage. I thought I was going to play in the netball World Cup in South Africa and then two weeks later I had an operation on both my knees so you never know what’s happening,” she said.

“I don’t like to plan too much into the future just for my mental sake as well but I like to continue until I can’t continue anymore and until my funds are depleted.

“I can’t go for operations anymore but yeah we’ll have to see where this takes us where God wants me to go.”

When we did the interview a week after the World Cup, Lenize was busy running around planning her new career and also got married.

I was fortunate to throw a last question to her about her time when she is not in the court. What does she do to relax.

“I love reading books, doing yoga, binge-watching series, drinking coffee or going to cafes. Yeah, I’m not, I don’t, I’m active enough,” she reveals.

“So like when I have to train or play netball. So in my spare time, I don’t like to do too much.

“Hence why my spirit animal is a Sloth. I would just like to lie down, watch TV, nap or whatever doesn’t make me move my body too much.

Images: Netball World Cup/ Ashley Vlotman / Grant Pitcher and Shaun Roy.

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