“I can’t wait to get this tournament under way,” said SPAR Proteas Netball coach Norma Plummer on the eve of the opening of the Netball World Cup in Sydney on Thursday.
The Proteas get their World Cup campaign under way on Friday afternoon with a match against their eternal rivals, Malawi.
Plummer, who was appointed to coach South Africa during the Diamond Challenge in Margate in June, said she would obviously have liked to have had four years with the Proteas, instead of barely three weeks, but she believed she could make a difference in the short time available to her.
“They are very intelligent players, and they are picking things up well. We have been focussing on skills and court strategies. Generally, we have been working on balance on the court, and on realising there is always more than one option. It is also about space awareness and court and on realising the ball has to be passed well and with purpose,” said Plummer.
“We played two Tests against New Zealand, and although the Silver Ferns won both Tests, we were able to reduce their margin of victory. I was happy to play the second ranked team in the world, because I wanted to put the players under pressure and raise the intensity. It is more valuable to play and lose against a team like New Zealand than to beat a weaker team,” she said.
South Africa beat Malawi convincingly in their two encounters in the Diamond Challenge, but Plummer said she knew Malawi would come back hard against the Proteas in their opening match.
“They have made peace with some of the players who withdrew from the team, and it will be a tougher team to beat. Malawi will want to go up another gear tomorrow.
“But we’ve had time together, and we can go out feeling confident,” said Plummer.
Proteas captain Maryke Holtzhausen said the team was excited about starting their World Cup campaign.
“We know Malawi is going to come at us very hard, and that it will be a very physical match, but we are ready for them,” she said.
“We have taken a lot of positives from our Tests against New Zealand, and we have learnt a lot from coach Norma, whose passion for netball and for success is there for everyone to see.”
Photo 1 caption: Bongiwe Msomi (left, SPAR Proteas vice-captain) with team Coach Norma Plummer (centre) and skipper Maryka Holtzhausen (right). Photo: Reg Caldecott