Proteas hope to net a win

2011-07-02 20:03

The South African netball team, Proteas, may well rank among the best netball-playing nations, but not at the World Netball Championships. Looking at the team’s play over the years and the quality of players, one is tempted to argue that praise should be witheld until after a ­successful tournament.

There is no doubt that there has been a reasonable amount of talent produced, but for some reason this ­talent hasn’t been able to prove its worth at the world championships.

In fact, the closest they have come was in 1995 when they finished second at the Birmingham championships in England.

As the Proteas go into their fifth championships in Singapore, the team continues on the tradition of having excellent individual players, which begs the question: can the team play as a unit?

The tournament starts ­today and ends on Sunday.

The South Africans take on the fourth-ranked Jamaica in their opener tomorrow just before 5am South African time.

The Proteas have yet to beat the Caribbean powerhouse.

With the Proteas team boasting experienced ­campaigners in captain Amanda Mynhardt (24) and vice-captain Zanele Mdodana (27), anything less than ­winning Group D would be a failure.

Botswana, ranked 17th, and the 19th-ranked hosts Singapore make up the rest of the group. These two nations aren’t expected to pose any challenge to the Proteas.

South Africa should therefore go into their match against Jamaica knowing that they are capable of beating anybody at this 16-team ­tournament.

The team left the country last week under a dark cloud, following allegations of racism that led to the resignation of long-time vice-captain Nthabiseng Moabi.

Moabi, the most experienced player with 75 national caps, had alleged that some players were subjected to racism and favouritism. She was replaced by Bongiwe Msomi.

Mdodana has been with the national team for six years while Mynhardt has been with the team since 2008.

The Proteas, along with neighbours Botswana and Malawi, will be carrying the hopes of the Mother ­Continent as they try to wrestle the crown away from the reigning champions, ­Australia.

If the group-stage results go according to the rankings, South Africa will face New Zealand (in Group B) in the quarterfinals.

Jamaica haven’t had the smoothest route to the championships. They lost their captain and kingpin Simone Forbes, who is serving a three-month suspension ­after testing positive for a banned substance.

They also had a late change to the coaching line-up, with Connie Francis expelled just months before the tournament, and replaced with Oberon Pitterson. Also, they recruited former Australian coach Jill McIntosh.

McIntosh’s experience and influence on the team was noticeable in Jamaica’s last international series, in April, when they beat England 2-1.

Jamaica’s threat will be led by the 1.96m shooter Romelda Aiken, who was unstoppable for her provincial club, Queensland Firebirds, this season.

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