Coolangatta gold for South African netballers
LESS than a year out from the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, South Africa's preparations will hit top gear when they meet the world's best three sides in Australia, New Zealand and England in an upcoming Quad Series.
In camp in Coolangatta this week, the Proteas Tweed-based coach and 52 test Australian veteran Nicole Cusack is putting the side through its paces at local high schools while they bond in the sun.
The side has played a match against Queensland's men's state team, and will play a scratch match against a Queensland state league side in Coomera tonight as part of their final preparations for the Quad Series opener against New Zealand in Brisbane on Saturday night.
After promising performances in the corresponding series in 2016, Proteas captain Bongiwe Msomi said the side has been making serious progress, and was confident of taking it up to netball's powerhouse countries.
"We used to play against them and we'd get brushed, but in a year or two, we've really put our foot down, so when we step onto the court they can expect us to perform,” Msomi said.
"In last years Quad Series we were in all the games and lowered the scores, so this time we feel we can step up even further and that's exciting.
"We know it's going to be tough, but we're trying to crack a win amongst the best teams.”
After a breakout season in England's Netball Superleague this year with Wasps, Msomi has been signed by the Adelaide Thunderbirds for the 2018 Super Netball season, joining defender Karla Mostert (Sunshine Coast Lightning) and centre Erin Burger (Queensland Firebirds), as Proteas playing in the world's best league.
Mostert, a star in the Lightning's run to the 2017 title, said while the easier route would be collecting wins against lower-ranked countries, the Proteas' improvement would only continue by pushing the best sides like Australia.
"They (Australia) are usually very physical team and they have a lot of experience,” she said.
"They play and train week in and week out, and we don't really have that in South Africa. So they're a few steps ahead of us.
"For us, we just want improve when we're playing these games, and we want to make sure the experience is much more important for us that beating lower teams.”
While they haven't placed any expectations on an outcome for the Games, Mostert said it wasn't unrealistic for the Proteas to be playing for a medal.
"Where we began to where we are now, we've definitely felt that we've improved, and we just want to continue making sure we're better every time we play against these countries,” she said.
"It's going to be extremely hard work, but they know we're a force to be reckoned with, and they can't just go out and play against us.
"They need to prepare for that because we're giving them a run for their money.”
South Africa meet Australia in round two of the Quad Series in Canberra next Wednesday, before their final match against England in Invercargill, New Zealand on September 3.
The group phase of the Commonwealth Games netball competition will be run from April 5-12 at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre.