South Africa ready for massive game

2011-07-07 13:08

Singapore – After finishing second in their pool at the World Netball Championships, the South African netball team had a rest day today before settling down to plan for their toughest game of the tournament – the quarterfinal against world number one, New Zealand, tomorrow morning.

The last time the two teams met was at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi last year, when New Zealand beat South Africa 70-29.

South African vice-captain, Zanele Mdodana, believed New Zealand may be surprised this time.
“We have made a lot of progress since then, and we are a very different team now,” she said.

“What is important when we play them is that we mustn’t try to beat them at their own game.

“We must stick to our own style and play our own game. New Zealand are the best team in the world, and we will have to play our best to beat them.”

Mdodana said playing New Zealand in the knock-out stages of the World Championships would be “an awesome experience.

“We have watched plenty of video footage of how they play, and we know what to expect and how to manage each player.

“I think they don’t know as much about us as we know about them.”

The New Zealand team includes two former Proteas – goalshooter Irene van Dyk, who was part of the South African team which won the silver medal at the World Championships in 1995, and Leana de Bruin, who represented South Africa at the 1999 World Championships.

They are among an elite group of players to play for the Silver Ferns at three world tournaments, and De Bruin will have something extra to celebrate tomorrow – she will earn her 50th Test cap against her former team.

“Irene and Leana are just members of the opposite team,” said Mdodana.

“We don’t feel differently about them. Knowing Leana, she’s going to go all out against us. She’s a fighter – she’s South African, after all.

“But we wish her well and congratulations to her – it’s a great achievement.”

Head coach Elize Kotze is likely to start with her strongest team. South Africa started slowly in each of their pool games, trailing their opponents at the end of the first quarter in each game, and Kotze had to bring in her experienced players to rescue the situation.

“The first quarter is always difficult, as teams feel their way,” said Kotze.

“It’s important not to get too far behind at the start of the match. I wanted to give my more experienced players a bit of a break, but I can see we are going to be relying on them in the knock-out stages.”

Kotze, who was also in the silver medal-winning team in 1995, said the Proteas would definitely not be over-awed by playing New Zealand.

“We beat the Silver Ferns in 1995, which proves we can beat them,” she said.

“Whatever happens tomorrow, we can gain so much from playing the best teams. It gives us an accurate measure of our progress, and we can see from playing them what we need to do to step up to the next level.”

The quarterfinal match between South Africa and New Zealand is at 9.30am South African time and will be screened live on SuperSport.

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