Big Guns to tackle SA Netball

by | Jan 22, 2007

It was 12 years ago that the South African netball team swept aside an impressive line-up of opponents on their way to claiming the silver medal at the World Championships.

That feat, and the fact that it was accomplished right here in Birmingham, England, is of little consequence to the present squad however, who face a massive challenge in taking on England in the first of three Tests on Monday evening.

But so too is the whitewash they suffered at the hands of the English the last time the two sides met at the end of 2005, according to coach of the SPAR SA side Burta de Kock, who maintains both sides are starting with a clean slate.

"Our team is very young, and they are not focussed on what happened in 1995. It was a long time ago," she said.

"We are also not focussing on what happened the last time we played England. We are focussed on 2007 and making the most of this opportunity."

The South African team who will take to the court for tomorrow night’s match is indeed vastly different to the one that played in the last series. And England have made a few changes too, with their captain Olivia Murphy calling it quits recently.

"We know they have a lot of new team members and a new captain. We have analysed a lot of their games and one thing that certainly hasn’t changed is that England are very fast and have excellent footwork.

We will have to neutralise their speed and slow things down," said De Kock.

With such an inexperienced team of players, the coach was grateful for a warm-up match against Wales on Saturday, which her side won 45-42.

But by winning by a slim margin of three goals against a team ranked nine places below them in the world, has shown that there is plenty of work to be done.

"We need to improve our focus and work on our basic skills," said De Kock. "We also need to stay calm, keep control of the ball and stick to our game plan."

Despite the odds being heavily stacked against them, De Kock remained optimistic. "From the coaching side, we hope and believe that it’s anyone game," she said.

"We just have to trust each other on court and focus on capitalising on our centre passes. It’s a great challenge for us and we are looking forward to it."

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