Current INF World ranking: 5th

2015 Netball World Cup finish: 5th

2018 Commonwealth Games placing: 5th

 

Previous results:

2015 – fifth; 2011 – fifth; 2007 – sixth; 2003 – fifth; 1999 – fifth; 1995 – second

 

Buoyed by their successful bid to host the 2023 Netball World Cup, South Africa are ready to march up the world rankings and make a final for the first time since the 1995 Netball World Cup.

The reign of Australian coach Norma Plummer and her assistant Nicole Cusack has seen immense improvements in conditioning, play, game smarts, and commitment from the group. She has also been instrumental in getting many of her charges placed in the world’s elite domestic competitions.

The South Africans have five tournament debutantes in the side, with plenty of experience as the spine of the team including Erin Burger at centre in her fourth World Cup. With their entire starting seven plying their trade overseas in England, Australia, and New Zealand, their development has been stratospheric. The Proteas’ athletes are benefiting from full-time devotion to their trade, first class facilities, elite coaching, and regularly facing off against the best international opponents.

Lynch pin goal defence Karla Pretorius won most valuable player award in the 2017 Suncorp Super Netball grand final along with two premierships, and now is joined at the Sunshine Coast Lightning by national team partner in defense Phumza Maweni. Some observers feel they are the strongest backline pairing in the competition with Pretorius’ freakish tally of inspired intercepts the best for any goal defense in the Australian league.

Maweni is evolving rapidly in terms of timing, clean footwork around the body, and tight marking. Any success for South Africa is completely built upon the form of those two stars. The backup defender, Zanele Vimbela, has a fair swag of caps and is a reliable understudy but expect Pretorius and Maweni to play a very high number of quarters. Having selected just three defenders, coach Plummer surely would consider using wing defense Shadine van der Merwe as cover goal defense if required.

 

Karla Pretorius and Phumza Maweni are a strong defensive unit for South Africa. Photo: Marcela Massey

 

The other key to toppling one of the big four nations in Liverpool is the presence of powerful shooter Lenize Potgieter. Her injury on the eve of the 2018 Commonwealth Games ruled her out of the tournament completely, and thus despite finishing fifth the South Africans were disappointed knowing what might have been. Previously playing in New Zealand and dominating their ANZ Premiership, Potgieter will permanently move to Australia in 2020, underscoring how she has quickly improved her positioning, core strength, variety, and reliability, with her trademark low-release quick accurate shot a cornerstone of the Proteas’ chances.

 

Lenize Potgieter returns for South Africa after missing the Commonwealth Games due to injury. Photo: May Bailey

 

Not to be ignored is starting goal attack Maryka Holtzhausen. The former captain’s accuracy and shooting volumes tend to be low, but she’s selected as an outstanding playmaker, tenacious, and possessed of over 100 test caps. Combining either Holtzhausen or Renske Stoltz with Potgieter is a scary prospect for opposing defenders. Ine-Mari Venter, was originally selected as the backup, but an injury has seen her replaced in the squad by Sigi Burger, who impressed at Surrey Storm in the UK Superleague this season.

Finally the midcourt has two leading lights in captain Bongi Msomi and centre Erin Burger. Msomi has evolved from the last World Cup – previously taking long leads with little preliminary work, and now after playing in England and Australia a very fit, sharp, evasive player with a huge variety of movement patterns and a never-say-die attitude.

Burger on the other hand, who debuted in a World Cup at age 20 in New Zealand in 2007, and went on to be tournament most valuable player in Singapore 2011, is now an iconic netballer in the sport’s history. She is an instinctive athlete who always seems to be in the right spot for an intercept, and in attack can shuffle on and effortlessly find Potgieter from way down the court. Despite having 115 international test caps, she has played only one season in Suncorp Super Netball and still needs to work on holding her feet a fraction longer to really weigh up her feeding options. Burger was another athlete suffering illness in the 2018 Commonwealth Games, in the early stages of myocarditis – she will be in full health and all guns blazing in Liverpool, adding to the South African’s claim on a finals berth.

 

Bongiwe Msomi in action for the Proteas. Image Kirsten Daley

 

Izette Griesel is quite experienced as the backup attacking midcourter, and Shadine van der Merwe is a World Cup debutante who will take most of the minutes in wing defense. Kanyisa Chawane is a fair option in centre to rest the stars in easier matches versus Fiji on day 2, and Scotland or Samoa on days 4-7.

In the opening stages the Proteas will cruise past Fiji, have a massive but achievable task against a confident Jamaica, and need to prepare carefully for bogey team Trinidad and Tobago who may not take the win but definitely represent a risk of injuries. From group C they will move on to group G and need to beat Uganda to reach the finals, plus play a tough and intelligent game against a sizzling England side.

South Africa have recently triumphed narrowly against England but not Jamaica – they must defeat at least one of those experienced and intimidating teams to make a semi-final against either Australia or New Zealand. Fortunately the Proteas are the nation that has benefited the most from the globalization of netball and now is their best shot of moving up the ladder and onto the podium.

 

SPAR Proteas coach, Norma Plummer giving some post match feedback. Photo: Marcela Massey

 

South African Proteas Netball World Cup team

 

Lenize Potgieter – GS

Sigrid Burger* – GS

Renske Stoltz* – GA

Maryka Holtzhausen – GA/WA

Bongiwe Msomi – WA/C (captain)

Izette Griesel (nee Lubbe) – C/WA

Khanyisa Chawane* – C

Erin Burger – C/WD

Shadine van der Merwe* – WD/GD

Karla Pretorius – GD/WD

Zanele Vimbela* – GK/GD

Phumza Maweni – GK

 

* = World Champs debut

 

Coach: Norma Plummer

 

Recent international results:

South Africa lost to New Zealand 60-62 in overtime (2019)

South Africa defeated England 48-45 (2019)

South Africa lost to Australia 45-62 (2019)

South Africa defeated Zimbabwe 73-44 (2018)

South Africa defeated Zambia 57-36 (2018)

 

Renske Stoltz (South Africa) puts up the long shot as Vangelee Williams (Jamaica) defends, during the 2018 Fast5 Netball World Series. Photo: Kirsten Daley