South Africa takes on its toughest opponents yet in the Netball World Cup in Sydney on Wednesday, when it meets defending champions Australia in the second pool phase. The Proteas know they have a tough task ahead, but they are all excited about playing the world number one team. The Australians lost their preliminary round match to New Zealand on Sunday, going down 52-47.
Captain Maryka Holtzhausen says this gives South Africa confidence going into the match: ‘We now know they are human and they can be beaten. We also know that it is going to be a very tough match, but we are looking forward to putting into practice what we have learned from our coach.’ Coach Norma Plummer was the Australian Diamonds’ coach when they won the previous World Cup in Singapore in 2011 and Holtzhausen says the girls are tapping into Plummer’s knowledge of her native land: ‘Norma knows them well, and that could help us.’ Plummer said she was not making any promises or predictions, but she said it was important for the Proteas to test themselves against the best: ‘This is the business end of the tournament, and the girls know they have to step up a gear. We have some outstanding players – (goalshooter) Lenize Potgieter is fantastic, particularly considering she is only 21, and players like Erin Burger and Bongi Msomi are outstanding.’
She said it was important for South Africa to play against the best: ‘It’s about them learning by playing against that quality, and it’s a quality they don’t come up against every day. Win or lose, they will learn a lot.’ Defender Adele Niemand says: ‘We definitely want a good contest and show the world that the Proteas can compete with the best. Australia are on their home ground and they’re the number one in the world, but we just need to apply what we’ve learned.’ Msomi (pictured) says: ‘We’ve got nothing to lose. We’re going to go hard and do our best against them and see if we can pull it through.’ The match will be played at 12:20 SA Time and organisers expect the Allphones Arena to be sold out, so the Proteas will be playing in front of one of the biggest crowds they have ever experienced.
South Africa have to beat Australia on Wednesday or England on Friday to qualify for the semi-finals on Sunday.
Photo credit: Murray Wilkinson (NWC2015 Media)