Scotland stand to benefit hugely from the three-Test netball series against hosts South Africa in Bellville, Cape Town, from 19-21 June. The Scottish Thistles, as the country’s national netball team is known, are ranked 12th by the International Netball Federation, and like South Africa, will using the three Tests to round off preparations for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, in Glasgow, next month. Scotland’s fortunes are nowadays guided by New Zealand-born coach Gail Parata, who was a stand-out player for New Zealand’s Silver Ferns a few years ago.
Parata said on Wednesday she was thrilled that the matches against the sixth world-ranked SPAR Proteas will be taking place, ahead of the Commonwealth Games. “This is a huge opportunity for us (Scotland) in terms of preparing for the Commonwealth Games. Considering the Proteas have a so much higher world-ranking than us, we know it is going to be tough. We’re so grateful to be playing matches against a classy side like South Africa. I have seen how the South Africans have improved over the last year or so,” said Parata. Since the start of the year Parata has engaged her side in several internationals and their results have allowed Scotland to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Sydney, Australia.
“This year we have played against several teams ranked in the world top-10 and we’ve now managed to clinch a place in the 2015 World Cup in Sydney. The matches against South Africa are an opportunity to keep improving because South Africa will field a high-calibre side. Scotland are under no illusions that we are in for three tough Tests,” said Parata. Parata and her coaching staff have managed their squad well in recent weeks, and unlike other northern hemisphere sides, have remained relatively injury-free. As a result their entire 12-man Commonwealth squad will be competing in Cape Town.
“We have been very lucky that all our leading players have not had injuries and we will be playing with our strongest team. It’s a great way for the squad to warm-up for the Commonwealth Games against really good opposition,” Parata said, adding that she is looking to tweak her side’s style of play. “We don’t have the height that some of the other teams have and so we look to play a short, sharp type of game. It’s a challenge for us because teams that have height in their ranks look to get the ball in the air. I’m looking to keep our play unorthodox, and I’d Scotland to play the way the Aussies do.” Parata paid tribute to Netball South Africa for the manner in which they managed to secure the three-Test series at such short notice, “Netball South Africa was brilliant in the way they put the series together at such short notice. They have been really accommodating and we looking forward to playing a role in making the series in Cape Town a major success for both countries.”
Scotland has never beaten their South African counterparts in an international netball fixture.