Maryka Holtzhausen will captain a strong SPAR Proteas side to take on the world at the Netball World Cup in Sydney, Australia in August.
New head coach, Norma Plummer, selected the squad after trials involving players who had taken part in the KwaZulu-Natal Diamond Challenge and in the European Championships in Belfast in May.
There were no major surprises in the squad. Erin Burger, who was named Player of the Tournament at the world championships in Singapore in 2011, was included, although she is still recovering from an ankle injury sustained during the recent Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League.
‘Erin is on a rehabilitation programme, and we have a deadline for her recovery,’ said Australian Plummer. ‘If she is not match fit by that date, we will make other plans.’ Plummer, who coached the team to victory in the Diamond Challenge which ended on Friday, said she felt privileged to be given the opportunity to coach such a talented group of athletes.
‘I only have three weeks with them before the World Cup, whereas other coaches have had four to five years,’ she said. ’So I’m not saying we are going to win the World Cup. I just want to make sure we give the players the knowledge and confidence to take the next step.’ Plummer’s influence was clearly visible during the Diamond Challenge, particularly in the final, when the Proteas stormed back after trailing Malawi at halftime, to win the match by five goals.
NSA President Mimi Mthethwa thanked Plummer and the entire Proteas management team, including the medical staff, for restoring the players’ confidence. ‘It was so wonderful and gratifying to see the players so full of confidence and belief in what they can achieve on court,’ said Mthethwa. ’This also affirmed that the decision the NSA Executive took to involve Ms Plummer could be the best so far. ’We know that she comes in at a very late stage before the NWC but we looked at what could benefit our players and we are sure that their performance at the NWC will show a much improved Proteas team,’ she said.
‘Our country has the best athletes. We would like them performing at their best to end the tournament with improved results from where they ended in the previous NWC.’
In 2011, South Africa beat their arch-rivals, Malawi, in the play-off for fifth place.
Picture of Proteas captain Maryka Holtzhausen courtesy of Reg Caldecott