Plummer bows out from the Proteas

netball09 December 2023 11:08| © SuperSport
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Norma Plummer © Gallo Images

Norma Plummer’s time with the Spar Proteas is coming to an end.

The Australian mentor first took up the coaching position in 2015 and led South Africa to the top four of the Netball World Cup finish for the first time in 25 years during the 2019 edition of the global competition.

Plummer, along with her assistant Nicole Cusack, will bow out after the three-test match with England.

This has been their second stint with the national team after making a comeback in 2022 November to lead the Proteas in the Quad Series and the World Cup in Cape Town.

Although the 79-year-old is leaving the coaching position, she is not yet retiring from the sport. Plummer says she has had the time of her life working with South Africa.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every moment over my time, over the two stints that I have had and coaching such fantastic athletes. It has been a pleasure. Retiring, yes, it’s not a word I use. This is certainly the swansong with South Africa, I will always do something in netball but it won’t be working on test matches anymore. I would like to hope that I have left a legacy with players, teaching them the skill and teaching them how to maintain the standard and never drop it. It’s important if you want to be a quality player. Also sharing the knowledge around the world, that is one thing I have a passion about,” says Plummer.

The former World Cup winning coach says her two spells with the senior team were different.

She says her first task was to make the Proteas a formidable team by reducing the goal difference and making the team become one of the most respected teams in the world.

Plummer is satisfied that she was able to achieve this.

“The first one was quite interesting because I had a four year stint. Over those four years, we were able to bring the score lines down on the top teams of the world because I had said to the CEO (Blanche de la Guerre) and the president (Mimi Mthethwa) that was the first objective we had to work for, bringing the score lines down. It used to be defeats of 35 to 55 goals and if we were going to improve, we needed to go out on those teams and keep working at it. So that the players learnt what pressure was about, how to handle pressure, and certainly how to finish off under pressure.

"It was an absolute delight in 2019, we missed out by only about two goals not to play in the gold medal (match). I was very disappointed about that. It would have been fantastic for us to have gotten over the line but the team was amazing. Absolutely amazing. In the second stint, of course, I had two and a half years away from the team, and coming back now there had been limited time. A lot of changes, players retired and some new youngsters coming into the group, it has been terrific to see them blossom over a short period,” she says.


The former Aussie Diamonds coach believes South Africa has improved and proven itself over the years.

“I think South Africa has come a long way, the rest of the world now don’t take them as easy beats. I know all teams and all the top sides who go out against South Africa know that they have a game in front of them where in the past they may have played their bench players, but now they don’t. I think it has been a testament to the fact that we have beaten Jamaica, beaten England, drew with New Zealand and we lost a game in 2019 by two goals to Australia. It shows the ability and certainly the skill to go further,” she explains.

Plummer continues to stress the importance of having a professional league in South Africa.

She believes that a longer running league with the strongest teams in the country will be key in helping the Proteas to break into the top four of the world.

She reckons the current Telkom Netball League is not enough to challenge the players to the next level.

“I believe the game for South Africa has to move into a more national league style of competition. The current competition is not enough to take these players to a level they need to be. A lot of them are getting picked up overseas and that has in a way helped enormously to lift the standard but it would be fantastic to see a national league growing in South Africa, where you will have eight teams and play 14 rounds plus the finals. It could even get to the stage where we could have imports. There is a lot of scope, I know that the current board is chasing a facility that would cater for that. It would be wonderful because you have so much potential in this area. South Africa is so good at sport and it would be great to see that sort of thing develop so that you can keep up with the rest of the world,” she explains.

The veteran says South Africa is littered with talent that will become big names in world netball and would rattle the world soon.

“There’s quite a few of them and I think they are on the courts running in this particular series. They will be the future. I am going to be happy to sit back now and watch the development from afar. I think South Africa is a beautiful country and has a lot of absolute talent, it just needs to be worked,” she says.