Johannesburg - The lack of a professional netball league in South Africa is one of the major reasons the Spar Proteas are performing poorly.
To get around this, the Proteas are now playing regularly against three of the biggest netball nations in the world.
Netball SA (NSA) CEO Blanche de la Guerre said: “The idea is to provide the teams with regular international competition.”
She said Australia and New Zealand play each other regularly, but the rest of the teams only face other strong sides on big stages, such as the Netball World Cup and the Commonwealth Games.
South Africa, New Zealand, England and Australia recently started the first leg of the netball Quad Series in Durban to give the South African national senior netball team exposure to strong sides.
The inaugural matches in the Quad Series were played in Australia and New Zealand last year and have moved on to South Africa this year.
The Spar Proteas failed to win any of their matches against the big guns. They did manage to hold world No 3 England to a 48-48 draw, but eventually capitulated in extra time, losing 60-55.
Spar Proteas coach Norma Plummer gave some insight into why the national team struggles.
“Australia and New Zealand have full-time professional competitions,” she said, “and Australia has a defined path for players to make it to the top.
“Most states have institutes and academies that deal with player development and they also have a pathway for the accreditation of coaches.”
Unlike NSA, the players in the Australian national league are given one- to two-year contracts and they have a players’ union that represents them.
Funding comes from the Australian Sports Commission and is allocated to running the national team and to develop the sport.
Top players can earn up to R1.8 million a year, she said.
“Coaches of these teams work on a full-time basis with resources and facilities in place.”
The Australian team plays at least 11 international games a year and New Zealand has a quota of 15 a year. Last year, the Proteas played 11 international games.
The International Netball Federation stipulates that each country has to play at least eight international games to maintain their ranking.
“The power and strength conditioning of the Proteas players needs to improve enormously. We hope to help rectify this going forward,” Plummer said.
South Africa is ranked No 5, behind Jamaica, England, New Zealand and Australia.