Wins over top teams should be SA's measurement of progress‚ says netball coach
South African netball coach Norma Plummer would like to start measuring the Proteas in terms of victories against top teams‚ not narrow defeats.
The hosts take on New Zealand at the Ellis Park arena in Johannesburg on Thursday night buoyed by their 50-54 loss to world champions Australia in the opening match of the Quad Series at the weekend.
That’s the closest South Africa has ever come to downing the Diamonds‚ and it was considerably more competitive than the legendary 1995 team's 48-68 defeat to Australia in the 1995 world championship final.
Expectations are high on the home side‚ but captain Bongi Msomi tried to push through a disclaimer at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.
“At this stage it’s not really about winning …”
“It is for me!” interjected Plummer‚ to laughter. Msomi put a hand on her coach’s knee: “It will come one day‚ we just need to finish off and the win will eventually come.
“But as a side we’re excited that we’re starting to play well as a team. Before we’ll have a couple of girls playing well and a few can’t really keep up the standard [for the whole game]‚ but now it’s like a whole team on the court.”
Plummer admitted she had been “blown away” by the performance against Australia‚ especially given the lack of preparation time.
They assembled for the first time since September just a few days before flying to London for the first leg of the series.
“It did worry me that most of the girls are training by themselves‚ there was no netball on here‚ they really had to do their own work and you’ve got to admire that.”
Boosting hopes of SA pulling a surprise over the Kiwis is that the Silver Ferns were downed 64-57 by England‚ who then lost 50-46 to Australia.
New Zealand skipper Katrina Grant said there were no excuses for the defeat. “We should have dug deep and got on top of them early but they came back and played some really good netball.
“When the crowd got going in that last quarter it was like that eighth person and they were pretty tough to combat … personal errors and just game plan execution wasn’t there for 60 minutes.
“The game tomorrow night is what we’re really focusing on. South Africa‚ they’ve got nothing to lose and it’s a very dangerous side when you’ve got nothing to lose. We’re going to need to pick up our game from the way we played against England.”
About 2500 tickets had been sold out for Thursday’s SA-New Zealand match‚ which kicks off at 7pm.
But Sunday’s final round of matches — Australia v New Zealand and SA v England — are sold out‚ an official said.