Despite finishing in fourth position at the 2023 Quad Series, Spar Proteas coach Norma Plummer reckons the team gave a good account of itself. South Africa hosted England, Australia, and New Zealand in the annual competition at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.
The senior national team failed to register a win against the top three teams in the world even though their performance improved from the Commonwealth Games where they had a poor showing. Plummer says the team played better than expected, even though they hadn’t experienced tough competition in a while.
“I guess we would have to look at it from the point of view that probably, maybe better than anticipated as far as the Proteas went. Considering they haven’t had a coach lined up since Commonwealth Games and we have quite a few new players within the group, I think I would be happy to say that we performed better than anticipated and the draw against England proved that we are not that far off the pace. We just need to up the work ethic,” she says.
“The problem is that when you get teams like Australia, New Zealand, and England who are ranked one, two, and three in the world, who have played one another, including Jamaica in the mix, over the last five months more than eight to 10 test matches, while the Proteas hadn’t had the luxury of playing at that standard, I believe the Proteas did a very good job. Because the intensity and the pressure in those games are far higher than what you get in the TNL in South Africa,” adds Plummer.
South Africa can be assured that former vice-captain, Karla Pretorius would be back to her peak just in time for the World Cup. The former Free State Crinums star displayed exciting performances in the Quad Series. One of those saw the Proteas snatch a draw with the Roses in the group stages of the competition. Being back with her club in Australia will be key in helping her get back to the match fitness needed for high-intensity games.
“She comes back into the fold and within one match started to touch back and then in the England game, she intercepted one of the most outstanding interceptions any player in any team could ever have to put her team back in a winning position. She really is a fantastic athlete. It won’t take her long to get back to the high standard of performance. She is very dedicated and (has a) highly strong personality as far as wanting to get back to top condition. She goes off now to be with Lightning on the Sunshine Coast in Australia and her performances there will pick her game up to be back where she was previously,” she explains.
The 24 players that have been contracted by Netball South Africa will all be vying for a place in the final 12-player squad for the World Cup. Plummer and the selection committee will be spoilt for choice in who gets into that team, however, they may also experience a headache as some of the players who had been out due to injury and missed out on the Quad Series and the Diamond Challenge will be coming back to the fold.
Elmere van der Berg, Lefébre Rademan, Tarle Mathe, and Nicola Smith have either started rehabilitation or are getting back to light training on the court.
Plummer is confident that they will be able to select the best team possible for the global tournament.
“We do have three players that have been out injured and I believe that after their initial rehab (will be available) to consider and the team could be stronger by the time we get to the selection of the World Cup. The sad thing about that is we don’t have either of those layers, they will be playing overseas but we will certainly keep connected to their performances we will have to pick the team on paper and hopefully the position we’re in, having to do that, that we get the right blend of what we need to go to the World Cup.
"There are a lot of things to consider prior to the World Cup and we will have limited time with them because, with the rest of the players left in South Africa, who do not have contracts overseas, we will run a program in Melbourne in February to come and get some intense competition,” she says.
The senior team will have cycles of training camps in Stellenbosch leading up to the World Cup but there aren’t any test matches that have been confirmed yet.
“Not ideal considering the competition that all the other countries get but overall you work with what you’re delivering and I think with the performance of the Proteas at the Quad Series, we’re not as far off as I anticipated we might be,” she says.