It was darn close. Too close. On Sunday afternoon, the NWU Eagles were stopped in their tracks in a heart-breaking way in the Varsity Netball campaign against the eventual winners, Kovsies, with a score of 66–65. In the final seconds of the game. The very last seconds. We will be lamenting about this for a long time.
But what once again stood out this year, was the skill of a special individual.
“Determination” is an adjective that is used too easily to describe athletes. It loses its meaning of firmness of purpose.
Yet it is the first word that comes to mind when pen is put to paper about Elsunet du Plessis, the NWU’s chief netball coach. What else? “Single-mindedness” sounds watered down and “decisiveness” does not make the grade. Elsunet is simply determined. She has always been.
On the netball field her talent and fearless approach to the game have made her just as much of a devil as a magician. Around the net she was her opponents ’nightmare, to teammates she was a dream. This is a combination that made her a Protea.
“I will never forget it. I was on my way home when the manager of the Proteas, Nisha Rupnarain, called me. I parked by the side of the road and then heard that there had been an injury in the group and that I was being called up to go to the World Cup … that I was definitely going to Sydney. I must confess, I could not believe it initially, and then suddenly I became very excited.” It was a Saturday on the road between Potchefstroom and Heidelberg. A great day that had been coming for a long time. “My mom was a netball coach when I was little, and I always sat beside the court watching her coaching, or I played there with the bigger children.”
When Elsunet is not involved with netball, she is in Heidelberg on the back of her horse, Style – a Clydesdale cross with a Scottish heritage. At home in Potchefstroom, she loves her couch, a book, and her two dachshunds, Ferdinand and Mila. And music. Mumford & Sons and Tim McGraw. Country music for the farm girl who still has the veld in her heart.
And then, her food – starter, entrée and dessert for her soul: netball. “You share netball with other people. You grow with them.” She laughs: “Although I am actually a big introvert and on my own a lot, I think it forces me to interact with other people. It helps me to grow as a person and set challenges for myself. Success is measured by teamwork and everyone has a share in it.”
As mentor, she can also establish a legacy. “As coach, I like a player to be hardworking and a team player. In the end, you do not do it for yourself, but also for the person next to you. I always tell my players that if they do their work well, the person next to them will also look good. You should therefore play in such a way that the person next to you looks like a superstar.”
This applies not only to her players, but to the NWU too. “I want to continue developing the culture that is being established. We not only want to ensure that there are better players, but better people too.”
Unwaveringly upwards. “Unwaveringly” is a nice word.