Photo: Netball South Africa.

Netball team eliminated from TNL after breaching transformation rules

The Mpumalanga Sunbirds were docked points for fielding too many black players which cost them their Division 2 semi-final in the Telkom Netball League.


Photo: Netball South Africa.

South Africa’s top tournament, the Telkom Netball League, has come into focus as a result of dogmatic transformation rules.

This comes after the Mpumalanga Sunbirds were forced to forfeit their match against the Kingdom Queens in the first division B semifinal which they initially won 43-42.

The Sunbirds fell foul of tournament rules 3.6 and 3.7 which cover transformation targets.

The team were docked points for fielding too many black players during the second quarter of their match, and as a result were deemed to have lost the match 42-0.

Telkom Netball League transformation rules

Teams in the league are effectively forbidden from fielding a team with less than four black players on the court at any given time but can also conversely be punished for fielding too few white player, with at least two required to be on the court at all times. 

Clause 3.6 states: Provincial teams should reflect the demographics of the country. Team management should be 50/50, and the filter of players should be 2/5 or 3/4 on court and should apply at all times. Failing to comply, points and goals will be taken from the non-complying team. Provincial demographics will be considered on approval of players and team management.

Clause 3.7 states: The competing team should play 2/5 or 3/4 in each quarter of the game. If a team plays 6/1 on court for the entire quarter and complied with 2/5 or 3/4 in other quarters, that team will be considered non-compliant of target system and such teams will forfeit points and goals of that game.

Building on the gains of 2019

There has been a lot of buzz surrounding this season’s Telkom Netball League after the Proteas exceeded expectations at the 2019 World Cup.

South Africa will host the next World Cup in 2023 in Cape Town and will look to the league to unearth new stars as the team begins a new era.

It is probably worth questioning if such rigid transformation rules really serve the game of netball in South Africa or are designed to satisfy politicians and administrators.

Netball is popular in South Africa as a school sport with high levels of participation among girls and top players often land relatively lucrative deals to play in the bigger leagues in Australia and England.

These rules cannot help but impact the tactical flexibility afforded to coaches and captains and really need to be re-examined to ensure the sport continues to grow and develop top players.