London, England – Two down in the series after suffering heavy defeats in both Birmingham and Manchester, the Spar SA netball team now face the daunting task of picking themselves up for the third and final Test here this evening.
But despite their consecutive losses (by 37 goals in the first Test, and 35 in the second), there is still a level of the optimism in the team, due to the improvement in the side’s performance between the first and second Tests.
One aspect of the South Africans’ game that has certainly been cause for optimism is their defence, which has been solid throughout the series.
Forming an integral part of the successful unit has been 24-year-old Leigh-Anne Zackey who remains positive but is keeping things in perspective ahead of the next Test.
“We have to be realistic about our chances,” she admitted. “We’re not going to win, but if we can just narrow that gap between our two teams to about 10 to 15 goals, that would be brilliant.
“We just need to score off our own centre passes and the turnovers are then a bonus,” she added.
Zackey said the English side’s speed and physicality are something that the South Africans will have to counteract, in order to have an impact in the next Test.
“We can’t try to stop their speed, because they are very fast and their footwork is brilliant, but we need to focus on our own game plan instead of trying to keep up with them,” she said.
“Also, they are a very physical team, but we shouldn’t back down. We need to stand our ground and mentally not let that get us down.
“Another thing is that we can’t give up. I think in the final quarter of the last Test we gave up too easily and they went from being 19 ahead to 35 ahead which is just heartbreaking after working so hard.
“We need to work together as a unit, with the players on the court and on the bench, and keep working right until the end,” said Zackey.
This was always going to be a tough tour for the hugely inexperienced South African team who have an average age of 22, and six new players in the squad of 14.
But according to Zackey, suffering massive defeats has not brought down the morale of the younger players.
“The senior players have been really nice to the juniors, picking them up and constantly motivating them,” she said.
“This has been a huge learning curve for them and they know now that it’s not all fun and games but that when you get out there you have to work hard.
“They have all been coping brilliantly though and their heads are still up which is important. Hopefully they will learn from this and I think as a team we are really looking forward, not only to the next Test, but to the rest of the year.”