Proteas ready for challenge
Johannesburg - There was an air of calm confidence when the SPAR South African netball team left for Singapore on Tuesday for the World Netball Championships which begin on Sunday July 3.
"The team is well prepared and is probably the best-conditioned netball team which has ever headed off to the World Championships," said head coach Elize Kotze at a media briefing before the team's departure.
The four member coaching panel took over in January, and embarked on a rigorous training programme, involving regular training camps, a Tri-Nations against Botswana and Singapore and a Test series against Trinidad and Tobago. South Africa won both tournaments. Botswana and Singapore are in the same pool as South Africa at the World Championships.
"We were able to track the players' progress through the six months, and were very pleased with the progress they made," said Kotze. “They are physically and mentally very strong, and we are confident that we will surprise a lot of people in Singapore.”
Kotze said the series against Trinidad and Tobago had been particularly important, because it provided the players the experience of playing against a Caribbean team ahead of their opening match against Jamaica on July 4.
"We have watched a lot of video footage of Jamaica, and the players all know who they'll be up against and what to expect," she said.
"They play a very aerial game, and so we have been practising for that style of netball."
Ten players will be making their World Cup debuts, but Kotze said they all had experience of playing in tournaments such as the Commonwealth Games and Under-21 World Championships. "They are all individuals, but they work very well together. Everyone understands her role in the team, and they have complete trust in one another."
"The vibe in the team is awesome," said captain Amanda Mynhardt. "We are so well prepared and now we just can't wait to get on that plane and take on the rest of the world. I really believe we are going to surprise a lot of people."
Netball South Africa President Mimi Mthethwa announced that Zanele Mdodana had replaced Nthabiseng Moabi as vice-captain of the team.
"For personal reasons, Nthabiseng was unable to attend all the training camps and as a result it was decided she should not go to the World Championships. We decided to give Zanele the opportunity to exercise her leadership skills," said Mthethwa. "The former Under21 captain, Bongiwe Msomi, has taken Nthabiseng's place in the squad."
The players will have three training sessions a day in Singapore ahead of the Championships. They will also play warm-up matches against the Australian Institute and Singapore, and are also hoping to play against Fiji and Samoa.