Well travelled Potgieter finally finds happy home
SOUTH African goal shooting star Lenize Potgieter has seen much of the world in her netball career, but the journey has made her the netballer she is today. Having played in all three of the world’s top leagues, Potgieter said that every club has contributed to her developing into a world class player.
“I think every single club has taught me something new” she said.
“How to hold in the circle, how to do rolls in the circle, what to do when you get pinned to the baseline, when to come out of the circle, my timings, my passes, my shooting, I think every single club has taught me that I can’t just rely on my strength.
“I need to realise what my middies, my midcourter’s strengths are as well, and I need to be able to work with them, incorporate and compromise with them to get the best out of each other.”
Since returning to the Netball Super League (NSL), Potgieter said she noticed the differences between the English and Australian defenders, and their different strengths.
“(NSL) is defenders wise one of the toughest leagues because they’re extremely physical over here,” she said. “You have to be super strong, whereas in Australia, what makes the Australian league very good is obviously they are very professional, and then their basics are very strong.
“Their passes are strong, footwork is strong, they don’t miss balls when they have to catch the ball, they know where each other is, they can extend each other, so they have a great basic skills and that helps with keeping possession and they don’t really throw very long lob balls.
“It’s very straightforward from the chest, from the shoulder passes and in comparison with New Zealand and England, they like to throw massive balls like from the centre court into the goal third they would just chuck a ball across the circle. There is working it short and sharp but their go to is first looking for the long pass.”
Potgieter’s journey began as a kid in South Africa, and friendships were what helped her fall in love with the sport.
“I think I’ve been playing netball since eight years-old, and it was so much fun to get to know new people, that was where I made all of my friends,” Potgieter recalled.
“When we always went on tours, riding on the bus and having food the whole time with us, not caring what we’re eating… netball is just a fun sport to play. It requires a lot of skill, it requires a lot of teamwork, so I think all of those factors made it a lot of fun for me.
“I like being under pressure situations, so obviously playing shooter that helped quite a lot, because that’s quite a pressurised position. That’s why I fell in love with the game.”
While others dread the pressure of goal shooter, Potgieter revels in it.
“Others say ‘No that’s too much pressure’ [being in goal shooter] but that’s how you become a better version of yourself, by being put under pressure and then finding ways to alleviate that pressure,” she said.
“On the court, off the court, during the game, during training. There are a lot of small elements that teach you as a lifestyle as well.”
Potgieter has had a go at goal attack but reflecting on when she played there in her university days, the shooter said she resembled a “baby giraffe” trying to find its way on court.
She has also been played there for the Proteas with Ine-Mari Venter as the goal shooter, but noted that despite their height advantage it was a very slow attack end.
Potgieter first played in South Africa’s top league in 2014 and in 2016, she alongside others in the Proteas side were advised by head coach Norma Plummer to go overseas to gain experience and challenge themselves in higher quality settings.
The shooter first headed to England to play in the Vitality Netball Super League (now known as the Netball Super League), linking up with Team Bath. Bath was the only club to contact Potgieter, and after some positive feedback of the team from Plummer, off to Bath she went alongside South African teammate Karla Pretorius.
She then headed to New Zealand the following year to play for the WBOP Magic, and actually received multiple offers. After again seeking guidance from Plummer, and with the incentive of playing alongside Casey Kopua, the Magic won out.
In 2019 it was time to head across to the Southern Steel in New Zealand before jumping across the ditch to play as a replacement player for the Queensland Firebirds in Australia’s Suncorp Super Netball competition.
After a brief stint at the Firebirds it was south to Adelaide to play with the Thunderbirds, before wrapping up her time there at the end of 2022. She then found herself without a home after the Thunderbirds decided to not renew her contract, which is how she ended up back in England at the Thunder.
Even before she joined the Thunderbirds, they had approached her in previous seasons, but Potgieter chose to move to New Zealand. After a few years they still wanted her, and the fact that her best friend Shadine Van der Merwe was at the club was a huge drawcard for Potgieter.
After the Thunderbirds did not re-contract her, she found herself a bit unsure about her future with so many teams already full, but she needed a professional contract before the World Cup. After the Manchester Thunder lost two of their shooters to overseas clubs, they contacted Potgieter and so the move was on. It was just coincidence Van Der Merwe was at the club, but she again spoke highly of the club and the players in the squad, which Potgieter really liked.
Even with all the moves she has made in her netball career, Potgieter has still found time to study. She has a degree in sports science, but has not been able to put that into use yet. She has also done a few other courses in areas such as massage and teaching English, but hopes to go into event management post her netball career.
Unfortunately with the visa she is on in the UK, her employment options are very limited. With the limits surrounding the working visa, she is only allowed to do work connected to the Manchester Thunder, even though she would like to have a part-time job. She can do coaching gigs through the Thunder, but with her domestic and international training workload, she is on the court just about every day.
Potgieter was officially announced in the South African squad for the 2023 Netball World Cup squad in Cape Town overnight.