Mari-Lena Joubert, Rochelle Lawson and Lauren-Lee Christians have all taken a big step up in their netball careers – the three youngsters have all been selected for the Proteas team representing South Africa at the European championships in Belfast, Northern Ireland, next month. Netball South Africa Director of Selectors, Christine Du Preez says: ‘We are eager to try out young upcoming players that have represented South Africa in our junior teams (Baby Proteas and Fast 5 Netball Series), and see how ready they are for senior international competition. It is very exciting that there are so many young as well as experienced players fighting for places in the national team. The Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League starts next month, and the top players have five weekends of really hard netball to show us what they can do. With the forthcoming Diamond Challenge scheduled for the last weekend of June, we will still open opportunity for other players as part of the top twelve that the coach would like to test; these could include the twelve that is going to Ireland and/or other new faces if need be. After we have seen everyone in action in Northern Ireland, the Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League and the Diamond Challenge, we will have a very good idea of who to select for the World Cup in Sydney in August.’
She said three players, Maryka Holtzhausen, Phumza Maweni and Bongiwe Msomi, were all currently playing in the Super Netball League in England. They would return to South Africa at the end of April, in time to prepare for the European Championships: ‘They are really living the netball dream. They are playing netball every day, and playing at a very high level. We are all looking forward to seeing what they have learnt from the experience. They should all come back even better than before they left. Bongi and Phumza have both been named Player of the Match in different matches, which shows that they are really doing well.’ The other teams taking part in the European Championships are England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Trinidad and Tobago. England are ranked third in the world, and the Proteas coaching staff are excited about measuring South Africa’s progress against one of the top countries ahead of the World Cup.
Head coach Bennie Saayman said the tournament would enable the coaching staff to see what aspects of play needed the most work. The Proteas squad is as follows: Erin Burger, Lauren-Lee Christians, Maryka Holtzhausen, Mari-Lena Joubert, Rochelle Lawson, Phumza Maweni, Zanele Mdodana, Bongiwe Msomi, Nothando Mthembu, Melissa Myburgh, Adele Niemand, Lenize Potgieter.