HOSTS NMMU have emerged as strong contenders for the inaugural Varsity Netball crown after romping to a 67-22 victory over the University of Cape Town in Port Elizabeth yesterday.
The televised match saw the SPAR-Madibaz side emerge unbeaten from the opening weekend of the six-week series, following a narrow 57-52 win over the University of Johannesburg and a convincing 51-30 victory against Stellenbosch University.
With 15 points, the Eastern Cape outfit now move into joint first position in the overall standings alongside NWU-Pukke.
SPAR-Madibaz made the most of their home court advantage, going on the attack right from the start.
Captain and goal-shooter Dumisane Chauke was in devastating form as she helped her side to a 19-5 lead by the end of the first quarter.
Good defence by goalkeeper Zanele Vimbela and tight marking by the home players put UCT under pressure in the second quarter, with the Capetonians failing to convert a number of chances, allowing NMMU to take a 29-10 lead into half-time.
In the third quarter, the PE team's substitute combination of shooter Kara Willemse and goal attack by Elzaan Lotter took advantage of the two-minute power play to earn valuable double points, while the defence shut down any further moves from the opposition.
UCT put up a brave fight and continued to play positive netball despite trailing 49-15 going into the fourth quarter. But, with Chauke and former Proteas centre Mampho Tsotetsi back on court, the SPAR-Madibaz outfit's goal scoring fiesta continued.
With three minutes to go, Chauke retired with a bruised hipbone but by then it was merely a case of adding insult to injury.
UCT, who compete in the B division of the University Sport South Africa competition, were simply completely outclassed by the dominant home side.
Vimbela, who was named FNB Player of the Match, said the defence had played an important part in the final result.
NMMU will face UP-Tuks in the fourth round of fixtures next week.