South Africa's acclaimed netball umpire Theresa Prince is on the cusp of a notable career milestone as she is about to rack up a 100th Test.
To date, Prince has umpired 99 Tests, and earlier this year, she would have passed the 100-mark, but the Covid-19 pandemic saw several countries place South Africa on the 'red list'. As a result of the travel restrictions, Prince could not take up appointments around the globe.
Prince's 100 Test would have been in Scotland a few weeks ago when Barbados toured there. She was disappointed but used the time instead to coach and assist with umpire training.
"It was not pleasant waking up to the news that South Africa was being red-flagged a day before my departure to Scotland for the 100th international Test match," said Prince. "Now was the time to turn your lemons into lemonade."
It looks like Prince will eventually make it to Scotland again next year for the European Netball World Cup Qualifiers 2022 (ENWCQ 2022). Scotland will host the tournament, showcasing six European countries and will take place in the Emirates Arena, Glasgow, in October. She has already officiated several times in Scotland.
The competing nations Scotland, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Wales, Gibraltar and Isle of Man will be fighting it out to qualify for the Netball World Cup 2023 in South Africa.
The great news is that yesterday, England Netball announced an international series for mid-January, and Prince is very likely going to be called up to do duty in London. No doubt. World Netball, the worldwide governing body for netball, will have bubbly on ice to toast one of their stand-out umpires when she reaches the magical mark.
The series in England will be known as the Netball Quad Series. The participating teams are England Vitality Roses, Australian Diamonds, New Zealand Silver Ferns and South Africa’s Spar Proteas. Prince will certainly crack the nod as South Africa's most-capped Test umpire.
The series was in the pipeline for some time. However, with the spreading of the omicron variant and a new wave of Covid-19 infections worldwide, the event was placed on hold. Finally, it seems the world is getting a grip on matters, and South Africans are free to travel again.
Prince has now been active on the international for more than a decade and has worked two Netball World Cup events in Singapore (2011) and Sydney, Australia (2015). She has done duty at two Netball World Youth Cup events in the Cook Islands (New Zealand, 2009) and Glasgow, Scotland (2013).
Her CV also shows she umpired at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland (2014) and Gold Coast, Australia (2018). In Africa, she has worked the Africa Netball Cup in Tanzania (2009) and Uganda (2017).
Prince already had a taste of what it will be like at the Netball World Cup 2023 in Cape Town. She umpired the World University Netball Championships there in 2012. She also did duty for the same event in Uganda (2018).
She has also been a popular choice for Constellation Cup, which is contested by the Australian and the New Zealand national teams. She umpired there on four occasions between 2012 and 2016.
Last week, local netball enthusiasts were reminded of Prince's worth as a netball personality, when she was in action at the Spar National Netball Championships in Cape Town.
One of her tasks was to run the rule over umpires who did duty at the nationals. She was impressed with many of the new umpires that were on duty.
"Netball South Africa has maintained a high level of umpiring, and it was heart-warming to see all the new talent at the championships," said Prince. "It was surprising that they were up to date with the rule changes because there was not much netball during the pandemic.
"It seems now that our online umpiring courses kept the local umpires on top of their game and their knowledge of the rule changes."
This year the national championships were robbed of their traditional powerhouses like Tshwane, Mangaung and Dr Kenneth Kaunda because of the pandemic. Prince, who has officiated at several national events for several years, felt that players showed a real eagerness to do well.
"Every Spar National Championships are special and competitive in its way," said Prince. "It was striking to see the hunger of the players to be out on a netball court. They were participating after all the ups and downs of the pandemic and the fatal bus accident on the eve of the tournament.
"Despite the absence of big names, there was no lack of competitiveness. Some of the players showcased extraordinary skills."
Prince hails from Despatch, a town between Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage, that was home to famous Springboks Danie Gerber and Rassie Erasmus. In Despatch, Prince enjoys the status of a star netball coach and has guided the fortunes of the Despatch High School netball teams.
She guided the school to the Eastern Cape Metro championship, and the team has also excelled at the Kay Motsepe National Netball tournament in Magaliesburg.
With so many strings to her netball bow, Prince offers a wealth of all-around netball knowledge and is well-versed in pertinent aspects of rules, game management, and on-court behaviour.
"As umpires, we are invited regularly to the national team's training camps," said Prince. "(SA netball coach) Dorrette Badenhorst is a close friend of mine and if she has any rule uncertainties it is as easy as 'phone a friend and I'm always pleased to offer assistance."
Prince's love for umpiring knows no bounds. She looks forward to every assignment with great enthusiasm.
"Every match I umpire is a piece of the final puzzle. It fills the holes in my umpiring career. It is the small pieces that create the big picture," said Prince.