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Photos: Amabokoboko (rugby), and Reg Caldecott (netball and basketball).

Q1 2019

Team balls stay sellers ... even when money is tight

While the sports are played, teams will always need balls — even though money is getting tighter. We asked some suppliers to share information about their balls that will fit the budgets of cash-strapped customers, clubs and schools

Since 2017, the number of inflatable balls imported have been increasing, with a 23.2% jump in volume in 2017 alone compared to 2016. Last year saw a 1.2% increase over 2017.

But, as a sign of the tougher economic times, the average import price of inflatable balls is going down (Rand value divided by volume), which suggests that more entry level balls are being imported than the top end brands. In 2016 the average Rand value per imported item was R32.02, but by 2017 it had gone down to R25.62.

In the end it comes down to the fact that teams will always need balls to play popular sports such as rugby, soccer and netball … but in order to move them off the shelves, retailers will have to sell them at a price that customers, especially clubs and schools, can afford. And nowadays it can be summarised as not much. Combine this with the fact that brands are doing their best to keep players and teams buying their products, and retailers should take note.

A ball for everyone

In its rugby, netball and soccer ball Star ranges, W.E.T. Sports caters to a number of player levels and different playing surfaces.

The two-ply Winner rugby ball, for example, is ideal as a match ball for junior schools or a skills practice ball for seniors. The ball is available in sizes 3, 4 and 5 in funky colours.

Club now features the valve in a seam, which improves kicking accuracy. The three-ply rugby ball is available in sizes 4 and 5.

The top-of-the-range Provincial match ball is also a three-ply with a valve in a seam, but it is geared towards seniors and is only available in a size 5.

The new 2019 hand-stitched rugby ball range also incorporates new grip technology.

Their soccer ball range features products for hard and soft fields. The Munchen moulded ball is designed for harder playing surfaces, is a cheaper alternative and has been a popular ball in W.E.T. Sports’ range for many years now. It is available in size 4 and 5 in a variety of colours.

The range has three options for teams playing on softer surfaces: Star, Vector and Estrella.

The Star ball is a knock-about ball at a competitive price while the 4 ply Vector caters for all age groups in a size 3, 4 and 5. The 32 panel Estrella match ball is designed to bend and swerve like its more expensive counterparts.

W.E.T. Sports’ netball range under its Star brand caters for players of all levels and ages, across a range of price points.

Their rubber netballs, for example, are best suited to entry level players or home use. They are available in sizes 4 and 5, and in different colours.

With a pimple grip, the two-ply Club stitched netball ball is aimed at intermediate players. It’s also available in sizes 4 and 5.

The three-ply Tournament match ball has pronounced Ultra Grip and is aimed at club and action netball players.

Provincial is their top-of-the-range match ball. It features shorter Ultra Grip, and is designed for more competitive players.

Top class local rugby

Amabokoboko draws inspiration for its designs from its South African roots. “The name is of Zulu origin, therefore we found it appropriate to base the design on a Zulu warrior shield,” says distributor Johan Smal of Amabokoboko Sport. “I have travelled to our supplier in India to develop a performance rugby ball that was tested by various professional kickers and players. Our objective with the Amabokoboko rugby ball is to create a truly South African performance ball.”

The brand offers balls to meet a range of needs, from entry level Ubuntu balls in size 3 for 5-8 year olds, size 4 training and match balls, up to Innovator International (a size 5 ball that can be used at provincial level).

Wildebees is its entry level valve in seam ball, which can be used at high school level or club rugby matches. It has been tested by kicking coaches, provincial players and Super A club league kickers, who were impressed with the range and accuracy, says Smal.

The very first open club champions (College Rovers) vs Varsity Cup winners (Tukkies) played with the Amabokoboko Pride of Africa Match Ball on Kings Park in Durban in 2012, adds Smal. The balls are currently used by a few recognized rugby academies for training purposes.

“The balls are specifically designed for South African conditions and we have worked on the durability as we want to improve the number of games per ball at school level.”

Affordable match & training balls

Medalist’s elite size 5 stitched netball ball, Destiny, meets international netball requirements. It features the Aeroflight technology, the Nano Butyl bladder ensures air retention, and the water repellant grip means excellent grip in all conditions.

Alpha, Ripple, Orange and Jazz, the moulded netball balls available from Medalist, feature a pimple texture for added grip. Alpha, Ripple and Jazz are available in sizes 4 and 5, and Orange in size 5.

Two of Medalist’s moulded soccer balls are designed for hard ground playing surfaces: Dynamo and Ultima are both size 5 PVC laminated balls that are nylon bound and created to be extremely durable — perfect for the rough surfaces often found in South Africa.

The Kinetic soccer ball, on the other hand, is designed for soft ground. The moulded rubber ball has a golf ball surface for added grip. It’s available in sizes 4 and 5.

The 32-panel Fusion, Vega and Exact balls headline the stitched soccer ball range and are designed to be used in matches. Fusion is made fr3om pro performance PU with a double microfibre cover, a high tensile laminate system that uses four layers of polyester microfibre, a micro-cellular foam layer that creates added compression and softer headers, and is designed for optimum handling and ball control. It’s suitable for all surfaces and weather.

Vega and Exact are made from elite performance PU with a high-abrasion solid PU cover and lining lamination that ensures true flight and enhances durability. Vega also has deep seams that reduce drag and improve spin, while Exact offers good aerodynamic bounce and flight and has low water uptake for all weather conditions.

Versus can be used for club matches and Match for school matches. Both have 32 panels and are available in sizes 4 and 5.

Revolution is an international quality rugby ball available from Medalist. It features in seam valve and Aeroflight technology for superior flight, a balanced bladder ensures the ball is balanced when kicked, and the water repellant grip provides good grip in all conditions. Its available in size 5.

Ultra Grip is another rugby ball that can be used in matches. It has a 3D-patterned, rubberised grip, balanced bladder, and is available in sizes 4 and 5.

The Super Star basketball features a pimple grip, is a moulded rubber ball, and available in sizes 3, 5 and 7.

Slam Dunk and Jump Shot are also moulded basketballs with pimple grips in size 7.

The Power Game match quality basketball is made from laminated PVC and also features a pimple grip for added hold.

Medalist’s water polo ball, Rubber, has excellent grip. The moulded rubber ball is available in the official size 5 and in two designs.

Medalist is distributed by De Wet Sports.

Quality match and training balls

Summit, distributed by Opal Sport, offers an affordable option for high quality match and training balls in soccer, rugby and netball.

Its Evolution ball range is for use in matches at all levels.

The Evolution rugby ball has a soft, synthetic outer that provides exceptional grip and feel. It’s a three-ply ball with pro-poly hand stitching for better shape and strength, and poly-cotton lining.

Its Gridlock grip technology, which improves grip and feel while allowing moisture to move off quickly, allows the Evolution Attacker netball ball to be used in all conditions and on any terrain without the players losing grip. It is made from three-ply laminate (one cotton and two with heavy polyester viscose fabrics) that enables the ball to keep its shape and durability, has an 18 panel construction, and has poly stitching for strength and shape retention. The butyl bladder also allows for long air retention, while maintaining a soft feel.

Evolution X is the top of the range ball in Summit’s soccer range. It features the thermo-bonded seamless technology, a 32 panel construction, 1mm PU Nanya Pearl dimple grain, high rebound EVA (4mm), poly-cotton machine cross-weave for added quality, a polyester thread wound, high bounce butyl bladder and a micro-hole valve.

The Advance range is for intensive training, but these balls can also be used as entry level match balls.

The rugby ball is hand stitched for added quality and has Evo grip on the synthetic outer, which creates the feel of a match ball.

The Advance Defender netball ball can be used on any court type. Its Evo pimple pattern replicates the feel of a match ball and the ball is made from long lasting rubber so that it lasts longer. Advance Defender is a three-ply ball with a mixture of cotton and polyester.

Summit’s Evo Ignite soccer ball is made from thermos foam backed PU, which gives it a reliable match ball quality for all levels. It has a 32 panel construction, 1mm PU matte diamond grain, a polyester thread wound butyl bladder and a micro-hole valve.

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