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Lenize Potgieter

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 17: Lenize Potgieter of the Thunderbirds shoots during the round five Super Netball match between Queensland Firebirds and Adelaide Thunderbirds at Nissan Arena, on April 17, 2022, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Lenize Potgieter can’t wait to be in Manchester.

The former Team Bath star has signed for Manchester Thunder for the 2022/23 season, after two years with the Adelaide Thunderbirds in Australia.

Goal shooter Potgieter, who also represents South Africa internationally, returns to the Vitality Netball Superleague after six years away, but is looking forward to being back.

“I’m really excited because now I get the chance to play against new defenders,” said Potgieter.

“I’m really excited especially to go to Thunder as they’re the champions – it’s a lot of pressure but I like pressure.

“The things I’ve heard from my friend Shadine [van der Merwe], she couldn’t stop praising them for everything they’ve done for her, the team culture.

“I’m excited to be going to such a prestige team like Thunder.”

The 28-year-old is a Thunder side that head into the new season as undefeated champions, though will be without Laura Malcolm, Joyce Mvula, Caroline O’Hanlon, and Eleanor Cardwell who have all departed.

But Potgieter can’t wait to play the Thunder way, after being impressed with what she saw last term both on and off the court.

“I’ve watched a few games, obviously time zones were against me,” added Potgieter. “Usually the games were 2am, 4am and I love netball but that’s very early for me because I like sleep as well!

“I usually watched the Thunder games because of Shadine and I was astonished at the way that they play; it’s so fast, accurate, it’s normal netball but they do it so well.

“They execute the skills so well and that’s what I’m missing – I’m missing basic, skill netball, traditional netball where there’s no super shot or running subs. I’m craving normal netball.

“I know Nat [Metcalf] and I know Shadine but I know they have great depth in the team.

“Shadine doesn’t have anything bad to say – the group of girls were so welcoming, warm, funny – they had a great time together.

“They were under pressure but it was like a family environment. That’s what I saw on posts is how the fans are – how they support the team so much and the vibe that they create at the home ground.

“That is something amazing to experience. That’s what I’m really looking forward to.”

Potgieter scored 351 goals for the Thunderbirds last season, with 92% shooting accuracy, and will add real threat to the Thunder attack for next year.

Standing at 6ft 2in, Potgieter thrives with the ball under the post, something which will be familiar to fans who can remember 2016, when the South African was causing problems for defences in the circle for Team Bath.

“My fondest memories are when I was in Bath. It’s a beautiful city, I was able to explore a lot of places because it’s so historic,” remembered Potgieter.

“The friendships I made, I’m still friends with a lot of the girls.

“The games were tough. The type of game that England plays – it’s very different from how New Zealand plays and how Australia plays.

“They were preparing me for my next journey as well and now that I’ve been on a few journeys, I’m coming back to the original – I can’t wait to see how it’s developed and evolved.”

Potgieter returns to a Vitality Netball Superleague that has seen plenty of development during her time Down Under, with greater TV coverage and bigger crowds.

And the sharpshooter is thrilled to see the development of netball in the UK, and can’t wait for what more is to come.

“It’s amazing,” said Potgieter.

“I always love hearing that, I don’t care which women’s sport, getting more and more coverage but especially netball.

“I’m really happy that there’s more coverage for the sport, people are seeing it more and more and seeing what a great game it actually is. How agile, fast and mentally ready you need to be for this type of sport.

“They say it’s non-contact but I’d agree to disagree, it’s a physical sport, you have to be ready for any challenges that get thrown your way. It’s a tougher sport [now], you have to become tougher.”

And as Potgieter arrives in the North West, she has just two things on her mind; weather and trophies.

“I’ve been to Manchester once, six years ago when I was at Team Bath. I don’t know the town so I’m excited to get to know the place,” said Potgieter.

“I remember England being cold, always! While being with the Proteas we hit the heatwave and I was so excited – can this be next year too?

“I really want to have a championship under my belt, I’ve never had the chance and I think this team it’s still very much possible because of the players that are still there, the coaching staff and then bringing in a bit of experience.”

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