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By Ané Havenga

This Women’s Month, Die Matie is celebrating the mighty women who carried the South African and Maties-flag during the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Die Matie spoke to some of the athletes.

Tilka Paljk

After a swimming training camp last year at Maties, Tilka Paljk, a first-year BA (International Studies) student originally from Zambia, toyed with the idea of moving to Stellenbosch permanently. She has not looked back since and has enjoyed every moment with her Maties team, especially walking to the pool every afternoon to train with them. 

Paljk loves competing at the Commonwealth Games. “It is always exciting to be told I’ve made the team. It is such an honour to represent my country. My favourite moment at this year’s Games has been swimming the mixed 4×100 m medley relay. We were friends with all the teams in our heat, and it was nice to make jokes before and during the race.” 

She wants to try to qualify for the 2024 Olympics, but for now she enjoys every moment possible by making new friends and appreciating the people around her.

Nicholé Taljaard 

NICHOLÉ TALIJAARD In action on the netball court. Photo: Instagram (@nicholetaljaard)

Nicholé Taljaard, who is busy with a PgCE (FET), has had her fair share of ups and downs with netball, especially with a few injuries that almost ended her career. Her netball CV involves her having represented the Western Cape Schools’ Netball team for seven consecutive years, making the u. 17 South African netball team, and making the u. 18 South African squad. 

In her first year of studies, she made the Maties first team as well as the u. 21 Baby Protea squad. Unfortunately, in 2016 she tore a ligament in her knee and was out for the remainder of the year. She came back stronger and worked herself back in the Spar Proteas squad, where she made the squad of 23 who were contracted, through representing Maties (as well as captaining the side in 2019 and 2020), the Baby Proteas squad and the Western Cape Southern Stings 

Taljaard, as a proud Matie, singles out this moment, saying, “My favourite Maties netball memory was when we beat Kovsies in the Varsity Netball semi-final in Bloemfontein when we were behind the entire game. My favourite achievement is being named the Varsity Netball Player of the Tournament in 2021.”

Things happened quickly for Taljaard, since she heard three days before the team left that she made the team for the Commonwealth Games team. This followed after Lenize Potgieter was not medically cleared to play. 

Despite the late notification, Taljaard loved every minute of being part of the team. “The culture is amazing. The team is so positive and so inclusive with everything. They just want everyone to feel welcome and comfortable. They are super supportive. They help you find your strengths and encourage you with everything you do. I still remember my first test cap and when I took my first shot. The entire bench stood up and cheered for me. It was an insane feeling of support and love in the team.” 

Taljaard has especially enjoyed all the games they have played during the Commonwealth Games, since the crowd plays a huge role in such a massive stadium, and all the teams are amazing. She singled out the game against Australia because of the high level of competition and the opportunity to play against her idols. 

Off the court, her experience was also special. According to Taljaard, “The opening ceremony [was] amazing. It was just WOW, and they put so much effort into it. It was honestly just a breathtaking experience.”

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