Although South Africa didn’t manage to win a single game in the 2023 Quad Series, the Norma Plummer led side showed glimpses of improvement from their last matches against top sides.
The senior national side finished fourth in the tournament which was won by current Commonwealth Games champions, Australia who beat rivals New Zealand 56-50 to defend their Quad Series title. South Africa lost 49-42 to England in the bronze medal match.
The Proteas started the series with a disappointing 41-61 loss to the Silver Ferns, the biggest margin loss of the series. This was before they dusted themselves up to play to a 46-all draw in their second match. The Proteas lost three of the four games in the tournament.
“Well, obviously the girls are disappointed, they did want to pull one back especially seeing that we did have close to sell out crowds. Out there screaming, shouting, and chanting, you know the girls do love playing at home. Firstly we can improve on our ball placement as sometimes that ball was placed just where England defenders could tip it to their centre or wing defense right outside the circle and that was a turnover gone. Another area of improvement we can work on is our attacking lines, there were times when our attacking end was not completing the drives. And there were times when they would hit a body and get blocked up and come back, that is where they kept up crowded. I think that those two will assist us because our defense was brilliant tonight(against England), they did turn ball after ball. We just struggled a bit to make sure that we capitalised on all those turnovers,” she says.
Chauke reckons the team gave a good account of themselves.
“Overall performance, looking where we come from, where are right now and where we are looking to go, I think we did pretty well. I mean going down by 10 to Australia, yes, we had a rocky start against New Zealand but I would give us an eight,” she adds.
The long awaited return of Karla Pretorius was nothing short of incredible. The Spar Proteas goal defense looked quite comfortable in the circle and produced a number of steals and overturned possession to the benefit of the Proteas. The experience shown by Pretorius together with her long time defence partner Phumza Maweni was evident in the games that the two were paired together.
Getting back to club netball will be quite beneficial to her as she works to return to her peak fitness. Pretorius will rejoin her Australian team, the Sunshine Coast Lightning, for the 2023 season. The seventh edition of Suncorp Super Netball will begin on 18 March, this will give Pretorius enough time to gel with her teammates to get her ready for the season.
Plummer showed some bravery by pairing Nichole Taljaard and Ine-Mari Venter in the shooting circle in their match against the Diamonds. The young duo worked well together and this will help with the depth of the shooting department in the long run.
The young Taljaard was one of the standout players in the Proteas squad throughout the tournament. Her creativity, agility, confidence, and calm were a marvel to watch in both attack and the shooting circle.
Gauteng Golden Fireballs’ Owethu Ngubane earned her first Proteas cap in goal attack. Although she was part of the South African team that won silver at last year’s Fast5 Netball World Series, she got her first international cap in the match against Australia.
“I’m so excited, I had been waiting for this my whole life. It’s quite exciting to show my talent. I was nervous,” says Ngubane.
As the 2023 Netball World Cup approaches, the Proteas will need to improve their game in order to be better competitors. Consistent high-intensity game time will be important in getting the players sharp and ready for the July soiree. The Telkom Netball League, Netball Super League, and Suncorp Super Netball League will be the platform to do this. The Quad Series was the needed yardstick for the technical team and also World Cup hosts city to see how much more needs to be done in terms of readiness for the global tournament.
“We do have players that have international contracts that will be going away to their franchises, they will be training and playing against these top players, whether it’s in England or Karla down in Australia. That is the game time that those players will be getting on that level. We do have players that remain here, we do have a trip planned in February where we will be going out to play some international friendly games. And coming back, we believe in our own local league, might not be the best one in the world but it’s still much needed game time for the players that will be remaining here at home,” says Chauke.