With the Netball World Cup (NWC) just around the corner, there’s good news for the Proteas – the Diamond Challenge is returning to South Africa on June 16. The four African teams that will be playing at the World Cup – South Africa, Malawi, Zambia and Uganda – will compete in the Diamond Challenge, which will be played at the Ugu Sports Centre in Margate on the KZN South Coast from June 16 to 19. Netball South Africa (NSA) chief executive Blanche De La Guerre says: ‘We are very excited that the Diamond Challenge is back. It was last played in 2013, but we have entered a partnership with KwaZulu Natal Sport, and they will help to finance this tournament. In return, we will assist with Netball development programmes in KZN.’
She said Margate had been chosen for the tournament because there is great interest in Netball in the Ugu district, which is the area around Margate. De La Guerre says: ‘The tournament matches will be played in the evenings, and in the daytime, provincial players will hold Netball clinics for senior schoolgirls in the area. We will also hold clinics for technical officials and umpires during the Diamond Challenge.’ South Africa and their main African rivals, Malawi, are old hands at the NWC, but this year’s World Cup in Sydney will be a first for Uganda and Zambia.
De La Guerre says: ‘By holding the Diamond Challenge, we will be giving our fellow Africans some experience of tournament conditions. It will also be good exposure for our players. The team that is selected for the Diamond Challenge is not necessarily the team that will go to Sydney, but this is an opportunity for the selectors to have a look at some different players.’ South Africa won the Diamond Challenges in 2012 and 2013, and will want to maintain their record this year. De la Guerre said the Diamond Challenge was an expression of NSA’s commitment to fighting xenophobia: ‘We are reaching out to our African friends and neighbours, and it is also fitting that the tournament starts on Youth Day – one of the most significant dates in our country’s history.’
The tournament starts with a round robin section with play-offs for positions on Friday June 19.