Johannesburg - When the South African netball team play their next international match, they will be armed with a special secret weapon - Sherylle Calder, the world-renowned specialist in visual performance skills and their effect on improved sporting performance.
Calder, a former Protea hockey player, has worked with numerous sports teams around the world, and is the only person to have won back to back Rugby World Cup medals, having worked with the victorious England team in 2003 and the Springboks in 2007.
It was while she was playing hockey at provincial and international level that Calder first realised the value of enhanced visual and perceptual skills to performance on the field.
She developed a unique visual skills development programme called EyeGym to enhance the capacity of players to access performance-relevant information during play.
Former Springbok captain John Smit - the man at the helm when South Africa won the William Webb-Ellis Trophy in Paris in 2007 - had no doubts about the impact of Calder's programme.
He said that while Calder was working with the Springboks, his lineout throw-ins were 100% accurate.
Other teams Calder has worked with include the South African, Pakistani and Australian cricket teams (she worked with the Australian team when they won their second consecutive World Cup in 2003), the South African women's hockey team, various soccer and rugby teams around the world, and two leading South African golfers, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen.
Calder said she was excited at the prospect of working with the netball team.
"The science of EyeGym will play a major role in enhancing the players' ability and add an edge to their performance," she said.
"This will carry over into helping them to make quicker and more effective decisions under pressure, and this will fast-track the players' performance to a new level."
Proteas' coach Elize Kotze welcomed the news, saying it was a move that would put the Proteas on a more professional footing.
"Vision is a huge factor in the game, and it will be fantastic to work with one of the world's best in this field," she said.
"If we want to move into the top four in the world, instead of being content to remain number five, we need to progress and we need to be more specific about what we are trying to do.
"With the kind of training Dr Calder will provide, we can move onto another level.
"We have fantastic players, and with scientific help, I have no doubt that we can achieve our goal of challenging the top four teams in the world."