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Proteas head for Commonwealth as world’s No 5 team

South Africa’s netball side are heading to Australia for next month’s Commonwealth Games and they’ve made steady progress up the ladder in the 10 years since netball world rankings were first introduced.

When the first rankings were announced in 2008, South Africa were ranked ninth, but the SPAR Proteas have since worked their way up to fifth position, overtaking African rivals Malawi in the process.

This year, for the first time, three African countries are ranked in the top 10, with South Africa at five, Malawi at six and Uganda at seven. Ten years ago, Uganda were not even in the top 15, so their progress up the ladder has been remarkable.

David Kendix, who devised the ranking system, told the International Netball Federation (INF) that Uganda’s rise to seventh position was an example of the value of world rankings. ‘For sport to be meaningful, you need to have surprises and upsets, you need to have teams that are getting to the top and others that are moving down,’ said Kendix.

‘You need to have that fluidity to keep sport interesting. Uganda’s rise has been a great achievement.’

Kendix said it was very exciting that the number of teams that are ranked has risen from 22 in 2008 to 40. ‘I do believe that countries have been motivated by getting a ranking,’ he said.

‘Once a country has it, they don’t want to drop off the table.  If you look across the 10-year period, I believe the world rankings have acted as an incentive for some countries to play more than they would otherwise have done – which must be good for the game as a whole.’

The top four teams have remained unchanged over the past 10 years. Australia and New Zealand are ranked first and second respectively, followed by England in third place and Jamaica in fourth.

‘Rankings play a crucial part in determining qualification for major events such as the Commonwealth Games’, said Kendix.

‘On a given date, 1 July, it is the top 12 eligible countries who go through. If you are around the cut-off area, and you’ve got a Commonwealth Games spot at stake, then it certainly focuses the mind. To that extent, the rankings system is more than just general interest, it’s become part of the infrastructure of the sport, in so far as the rankings are driving qualification.’