Responding to South Africa’s SOS at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, Ine-Mari Venter was thrown into the deep end, making her debut for the Proteas netball team.
Crisis struck before the start of the Games with the national side losing their top two goal shooters, and the responsibility subsequently fell on Venter and Sigi Burger, who received call-ups, along with Renske Stoltz.
South Africa lost their opening match against Jamaica 57-46, with Venter landing 83 percent of her shots on debut.
After she got the butterflies out of the way, however, she started to play with more ease inside the circle.
“My heart was beating out of my chest. I stressed a lot, especially with that first goal, but once you slot the first one it gets easier as the game progresses,” Venter said.
The Proteas went on to beat Northern Ireland 49-35, but the side’s hopes of reaching the medal playoffs at the Games were dashed in their third match against Australia when they were handed a 60-38 loss.
“Once I got my debut out of the way the rest of the matches were not as nerve-wracking, but it was still stressful against Australia because we had to beat them to book a place in the semifinals,” Venter said.
South Africa were in rampant form in their remaining two pool matches, sweeping past Fiji 92-28 and Barbados 85-25, and Venter grew in confidence with her shooting averages climbing from the 80s to success rates of over 90%.
She was also on point in South Africa’s fifth-place playoff against a gutsy Ugandan side, landing 42 of her 46 shots at goal.
“My shooting average is the best it has ever been, and just to get that experience and to gain that confidence in yourself makes a massive difference,” Venter said.
“You can never relax with the netball. You always have to work hard. We have six goal shooters with the Proteas at the moment and only four can make it into the squad.”
The Proteas’ legendary Australian coach, Norma Plummer, mixed things up by using Venter on goal attack on a few occasions at the Gold Coast showpiece.
Venter hoped to receive more opportunities in the position, which would ultimately improve her chances of earning a regular place in the side.
“She (Plummer) sent me on as goal attack against Northern Ireland for two quarters, and with that you learn new things in a different position,” Venter said.
“Norma told me it is always better to be capable in two positions as it gives the coach more options.
“I want to start working on playing goal attack and learn what not to do because when I get tired I get tunnel vision.”