New-look Proteas for UK | SASCOC - SASCOC

New-look Proteas for UK

The SPAR South African netball team that flew off to the United Kingdom on Sunday bears little resemblance to the team that did duty at the Commonwealth Games in India recently.

Playing in the new format, Fastnet tournament in Liverpool this weekend, the 12-strong squad boasts seven new caps. ÔÇ£Several members of the team that went to the Commonwealth Games were unavailable for selection for various reasons, such as injuries, exams and other personal reasons,ÔÇØ explained national coach Carin Strauss.

ÔÇ£But this is an ideal time to blood some new players.┬áThe Fastnet tournament is a different format, and although it is an IFNA (International Federation of Netball Associations) event, there are no ranking points at stake, which takes a lot of the pressure off the players.ÔÇØ

Strauss said the introduction of a number of younger players into the squad meant that there was a new energy in the squad. ÔÇ£There’s a new vibe,ÔÇØ she said. ÔÇ£The new squad members are very excited to be here, and they are very coachable. They are not the country’s top players, but they are being given an opportunity to show us what they can do, and maybe even force their way into the regular team.ÔÇØ

She said the Fastnet format was an excellent way of introducing young players to top international netball. Fastnet is the netball equivalent of Twenty20 cricket. Quarters are only six minutes long, shooters can score from inside or outside the goal circle, with goals scored from outside earning double points, and rolling substitutions are allowed throughout the match. Each team can also select one quarter as a power play, when all goals scored count double.

ÔÇ£The format means that we can let them go on for a quarter or even less than a quarter and then take them off again, if they seem to be struggling,ÔÇØ said Strauss.┬á ÔÇ£They all know it’s going to be very hard work ÔÇô the game is even faster than normal netball, but they are fit and should be able to last out.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£It is going to be very important to manage the power plays ÔÇô I think they will be crucial to winning or losing.┬á Scores in this form of netball will probably be very close. We also have to see how the other team responds, and it can be even more challenging if both team select the same quarter for their power plays.ÔÇØ┬á ÔÇ£But we have some very mobile shooters, and that mobility is going to be critical.ÔÇØ

Strauss said some of the younger players might take some time adjusting to the noise and razzmatazz of Fastnet netball, and most would be playing in front of the biggest crowd they had encountered. ÔÇ£Netball is very well supported in England,ÔÇØ she said.┬á ÔÇ£This is a big venue, and that may come as something of a surprise to our players.ÔÇØ

Regarding South Africa’s perpetual nemesis, Malawi, Strauss said the Fastnet format suited South Africa better than Malawi. ÔÇ£They play a very patient and more static game,ÔÇØ she said.┬á ÔÇ£Also, the younger players don’t have a history with Malawi, so they don’t have a mental block about them.ÔÇØ

She said the five players who played at the Commonwealth Games ÔÇô Amanda Mynhardt, Erin Burger, Maryka Holtzhausen, Zukelwa Cwaba and Chrisna Bootha┬á ÔÇô would play an important role in the team, providing experience to temper the exuberance of youth. The other members of the Fastnet squad are; Tsakane Mbewe, Ilzeri Britz, Thuli Qegu, Kgomotso Itlhabanyeng , Nadia Uys , Elsunett Du Plessis, and Success Lekabe. SPAR Proteas player Amanda Mynhardt will captain the team in the absence of the charismatic Liezel Wium, who is struggling with a calf injury.

The tournament, which begins on Friday and ends on Sunday, includes the  top six countries on the IFNA rankings: Australia, England, Jamaica, New Zealand, Malawi and South Africa.