Living her dream

South African defender Jeante Strydom feels right at home with the Southern Steel. PHOTO: MICHAEL...
South African defender Jeante Strydom feels right at home with the Southern Steel. PHOTO: MICHAEL BRADLEY PHOTOGRAPHY
From the bright lights of Pretoria to the quiet life of Invercargill — Jeante Strydom is living her dream.

The South African defender feels right at home among the Southern Steel this year as she laps up her surroundings in her first full-time professional contract.

"I’ve been loving it," Strydom said.

"The team’s really welcoming. Since the start, it just feels like I fitted right in."

Life in Southland also suited her perfectly and she loved interacting with the netball-mad community.

"I actually really like Invercargill because it’s just a little bit more quiet ... and the people are amazing.

"It’s just like the best people on Earth.

"Even at the grocery stores, fans will come to you, and actually greet you, and have a look in your basket at what you’re buying, and I just love that.

"Everybody’s involved and really backing us."

Back home, netball is still a part-time sport, so when the call came from the Steel offering Strydom a fulltime ANZ Premiership contract it was a "no-brainer".

"Immediately I’m in and I’m here."

The defence is the only area of the court that has not been plagued by injuries and Strydom, 27, was enjoying settling into her new combinations with returning Steel defenders Taneisha Fifita and Abby Lawson.

"Every second we get on court is just getting better and better, so that feels good."

The five-cap Protea had depth to her game, having played under coaching great Norma Plummer, who had a glorious run coaching Australia from 2003 to 2011 and recently stepped down from coaching South Africa.

"She’s one of the best in the world. She’s one of my idols in netball" Strydom said.

"All the knowledge she has about netball ... and the way she coaches, it’s something you need to experience to know what it feels like."

Getting the call-up from Plummer to play at her first Netball World Cup — let alone on home soil — was a highlight, as had been learning from renowned South African defender Karla Pretorius.

Pretorius, who previously played for the Sunshine Coast Lightning, was an "absolute legend of the game" and a leader on an off the court.

"That’s one name in netball circles that everybody knows," Strydom said.

"Learning from her ... it’s not always the big things, but the small things you can work on — the one-percenters can make you a better player.

"The way she does stuff off court to prepare herself to be the best player on court that she can be, that’s also a good thing to learn."

Strydom had her first taste of the ANZ Premiership during the Steel’s 52-35 loss to the Mainland Tactix on Monday.

It was a tough first hit-out for the Steel, who produced their lowest scoring quarter with just four goals and struggled to find entry to their shooters.

But they are back home in front of their loving fans at ILT Stadium to play defending champions the Northern Mystics on Monday night.

After missing the opener through injury, Shannon Saunders is tracking well to be available but could be on managed minutes through her return to play.

Shooter Jen O’Connell is still unavailable due to injury and the Steel were working through a replacement for her for the Mystics game.

The Mystics had a 64-52 win against the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic to open their campaign. But the Mystics struggled in the first half, with the Magic leading by one at halftime.

The Central Pulse host the Magic this afternoon and the Tactix play the Northern Stars tomorrow. Tactix defender Jane Watson will play her 150th national league game.