Elize Kotze, coach of the Spar Fast5 netball team, is excited about leading the team to the World Fast5 Series in Auckland, New Zealand, on November 8 and 9. “It’s a new challenge for me and I have had to do a lot of analysis and research ahead of the tournament. Fast5 is a very tactical game, and I am really looking forward to that,” said Kotze. Fast5 netball is a shortened and faster version of the game, and can be compared to Twenty20 cricket or Sevens rugby.
There are only five players on the court at any time, with rolling substitutions a feature of this format. The team selected by Netball South Africa is a blend of youth and experience, with several top players out of contention because of injury, university exams or work pressure. “We have chosen quite a few younger players who came to our attention during the Brutal Fruit Cup and the Varsity Netball. This is an ideal opportunity to see whether these young players can take the step up to the next level. The 2015 World Cup is just around the corner and we need to find out whether the youngsters are ready for that sort of pressure,” said Kotze.
She said there was also value in playing in a competition that featured only the top six netball-playing countries, “It is always important to measure ourselves against the best. Because of the nature of Fast5, anything can happen, and we are aiming to improve on our position last year, when we came fourth.” Kotze is also looking forward to meeting up with her former teammate, Irene Van Dyk.
They were both in the Proteas team that won the silver medal at the World Championships in Birmingham in 1995. Van Dyk moved to New Zealand, where she became a major cog in the Silver Ferns team. Although she has retired from international netball, she has decided to make the Fast 5 her swansong.
“I always look forward to seeing Irene, and I think our players can learn a lot from her. It will be a privilege to see her in action for the last time,” said Kotze. Netball South Africa President Mimi Mthethwa said she was confident that the Spar Fast5 team would do well at the World Series, “We have been monitoring the players closely over the year and we believe we have selected a group that can be called specialists at this version of the game. In Fast5 the tempo is much higher and decisions need to be made very quickly, so we needed to identify players that could excel in this format. We are confident that we have a team that will do very well in the World Series. We are disappointed that we cannot take two of our best shooters due to injury as we would have loved to see how they cope with the high intensity of the Fast5 game. These two shooters have been brilliant in all the top competitions played this year. We wish them speedy recovery and hope that they would be ready for action beginning of 2015,” she said. The team leaves for New Zealand on Sunday, and will play warm-up matches against Australia, England and Jamaica ahead of the World Series.
Fast5 squad: Maryka Holtzhausen (captain), Vanes-Mari Du Toit, Mari-Lena Joubert, Elsunet du Plessis, Lauren-Lee Christians, Tumelo Mantjiu, Amanda Mynhardt, Shadine Van Der Merwe, Phumza Maweni and Bhongo Nqubeni.
Photo credit: Reg Caldecott/Gallo Images