The SPAR national netball team embark on the toughest challenge yet next month, when they take on some of the top netball countries in the world – Australia, New Zealand and England – in the Quad Series in Australia and New Zealand.
The Netball South Africa (NSA) selectors have chosen a team that blends youth and experience, with captain Amanda Mynhardt and vice-captain Zanele Mdodana boasting nearly 100 caps between them. At the other end of the scale, Melissa Myburgh, who made her debut earlier this year, has just one cap, Karla Mostert has five and Vanes-Mari du Toit eight.
Coach Elize Kotze said it was a great compliment that South Africa, ranked sixth in the world, had been invited to take part in the tournament rather than third-ranked Jamaica. “After our performance in the World Championships in Singapore last year, where we came fifth, the top countries have recognised that we are a very competitive team,” she said.
“We have been making steady progress since then. We were able to beat Jamaica for the first time in 45 years when we toured there earlier this year, and then we had a very good series against Northern Ireland. Since then, we beat Malawi (ranked fifth) to win the Diamond Challenge and netball in South Africa is definitely on an upward trajectory.
“When we play against the top four teams, we are playing on a totally different level. The standard is so much higher and we will learn so much from the Quad Series. At the end of it, we will know exactly where we stand, and what we need to do to compete with the best at the Commonwealth Games in 2014. The only way to grow is to play against the top teams.”
The Proteas attended a rigorous training camp at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport at the weekend, during which they continued their work with eye-training specialist, Dr Sherylle Calder. Kotze was overjoyed with the results of Dr Calder’s work.
“We have been working with her for a couple of months, and the improvement is amazing,” she said. “The players have all been working very hard on their Eye Gym exercises, and you can see the effect on their speed and their decision-making. You could see it during the Diamond Challenge, when they were finding spaces they had never seen before.”
President of Netball South Africa Mimi Mthethwa said she was pleased with the team that had been selected, but will not overlook three of the top players that are unable to take part in the Quad Series due to unavailability.
“Precious Mthembu, Simnikiwe Mdaka and Nontle Gwavu all had brilliant performances during the trials, and were in the top 10 players. One of our top players Erin Burger is still injured, but we expect her full recovery by the end of the year to begin with training for the forthcoming World Netball Championships in 2015.”
The Quad Series will take place in three Australian cities and three New Zealand cities, with double-headers at each venue. The tour starts in Adelaide on 14 October and ends in Hamilton, New Zealand on 1 November, 2012.
The SA Netball Squad for the 2012 Quad Series: Chrisna Bootha Maryka Holtzhausen Melissa Myburgh Lindie Lombard Nadia Uys Bongiwe Msomi Thuli Qegu Zanele Mdodana (Vice Captain) Vanes-Mari du Toit Karla Mostert Amanda Mynhardt (Captain) Adele Niemand