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Roses a thorn in SA side

The Proteas’ first up Commonwealth clash with England will determine the medal aspirations of Liesel Wium’s netballers at the XIX Commonwealth Games in India.

Wium, who led the Proteas to a 2-0 series win in Samoa last year and the recently completed African championships, is enough of a realist to accept that defeat against England will be more than a stumble if the South Africans are to break into the Commonwealth top four.

Australia and New Zealand traditionally have dominated the sport, but England and Jamaica in recent seasons have also proved a headache to the South Africans.

‘The form guide is accurate in placing us fifth in the world and in the Commonwealth, but we know we have the capability to beat the likes of England and Jamaica if we play to our ability. Australia and New Zealand are the two top teams and they would have to have a really bad day and us a really good one for an upset to be possible,’ Wium said. ‘But in tournaments like this if a team gets a good start and builds momentum then those kind of upsets can happen.’

South Africa plays New Zealand in the third pool game, but Wium knows her players can’t afford to think beyond the opener against England.

‘The top two in the group advance to the semi-finals and with New Zealand the group favourite it comes down to a straight shootout between us and England,’ said Wium.

England beat the Proteas the last time the two teams met, but clashes between the two have been rare, which makes preparation a lottery for both teams.

‘We are very familiar with the southern hemisphere teams and tend to play New Zealand and Australia quite often, which in the long-term will be beneficial to our players. But we haven’t seen much of England, outside of what we’ve analysed on DVD, and they are as much an unknown factor as we are to them. Whoever loses will struggle to beat New Zealand and qualify.’

Wium leads a settled combination, with the core of the squad having consistently played together in the last two years.

‘It helps that the players are familiar with each other, but consistency in playing together is only a factor if the quality of play matches that consistency. We have been working on variations to our attack and have tweaked a few combinations. What we feel will work against England may not necessarily be the most effective combination against New Zealand, for example. But we’re in a good head space for the England game. Training has gone well, the facilities are good and as South Africans we are pretty used to the humidity and heat of Delhi. Hopefully that can be an advantage against the likes of England, whose players will be accustomed to more forgiving and comfortable temperatures.’

The Proteas arrived in Delhi on Monday and have mostly trained at the Delhi University. One training session has been scheduled at the competition arena.


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