The Spar Proteas’ performance at last year’s Commonwealth Games left a lot worried especially with the Netball World Cup being so close. The national team was ineffective at the competition, the first major tournament since the 2019 global tournament in Liverpool where they finished in the top four for the first time since 1995.
Not only did the disappointing showing worry the country, Netball South Africa saw this as an opportunity to strengthen the technical team by roping back Norma Plummer. Under the World Cup winning coach, the Proteas soared to greater heights and led the team to the semifinals of the 2019 World Cup.
Proteas captain, Bongiwe Msomi says although the results in Birmingham were unexpected, it was a necessary wakeup call for the whole team in order to do better.
“I think we have been challenged a few times here and there last year. We got caught off guard, the best one that showed us that was the Commonwealth Games. I think that sometimes you need to get a wakeup call. I think from there, every chance we got to step out on stage, you could sense the change, you could sense the different vibe and different intensity,” says Msomi.
With the Quad Series just around the corner, the Proteas will get to see if the rude awakening came in time.
“But you cannot be assured of that if you don’t have a standard of certain tournaments that can show you if you’re heading in the right direction. Sometimes it feels like that’s not what is happening so it would be great now to see that we are heading in the right direction but we can see it now on the court. I am really looking forward to seeing the Spar Proteas that have guts, the guts to step back on the court and take on whatever team and actually compete to the end because we have been known for that and I think at some point we left it a bit so it would be good to see it now. We’ve got the World Cup coming up and before we go to the World Cup, how about we finish on the podium at the Quad Series and take it from there to the World Cup? That would be fantastic, I am looking forward to seeing if we can achieve that as a group,” she adds.
The subpar performance at the Commonwealth Games also shook the federation which saw them rope back Plummer to the fold with the hopes that she can bring the team back to a high standard in time for the World Cup. NSA has an ambitious wish for the tournament, president Cecilia Molokwane keeps reiterating that a podium finish is the goal.
Plummer has now had a few practice runs with the team including the Spar Diamond Challenge and the training camps held in Stellenbosch. The Australian is already demanding a high standard of effort from the players that will elevate the team’s profile to what it was before the Birmingham disappointment.
“It’s probably being caught off guard, firstly, when it happened before anyone comes in, it changes your mindset, changes your approach to certain things. Already with that, you
could sense that the whole group has a different sense of ‘what is us, where we want to be, and what kind of effort we want to put in.’ It was terrible but it was probably good in the sense that it has changed the whole mood in a better direction. Then Norma came in, we had a few people coming in, who had liked to see us at training being excited by what we put in and what we looked like.
I like the idea of when people start saying ‘you actually look like a great bunch, you look excited, and fit and there is some urgency in what you do.’ I think that is her style of coaching. She is very much a person of standards and everyone who has been coached by her will constantly say don’t drop the standard because she has got a certain standard and there are things that she would say that you could never back off on. It helps when you hear it from her because she is very straightforward,” says the University of Johannesburg coach.
The Quad Series against England, New Zealand, and Australia will be the first big test for the Proteas before the global competition later in the year. The competition will take place in the World Cup host city, Cape Town from 21-25 January. This will only be the third time that South Africa hosts this event and will be held in Cape Town for the very first time. This will also help the federation to test how far they are in terms of readiness before the big tournament in July.