Spar Proteas defensive to critique

The Spar Proteas’ trajectory to the top table of netball has hit a bit of a speed bump. The lustre of 2019 seems to have faded as they battle against three of the top four-ranked teams in the world at the Vitality Nations Cup in England.

Since becoming African Champions, the team looked to be on the way to higher honours but a series defeat to England in late 2019 and two defeats at the Nations Cup against Jamaica and England have allowed for doubts to surface.

The maturity that is attained with growth evaded the Proteas in crucial moments against Jamaica.

Former Gauteng Jaguars coach Jenny van Dyk felt that the South African side opted for champagne netball without securing the victory.

“In my opinion we lacked discipline in the key moments that could change the tide. It doesn’t always have to be pretty, but it must be effective,” van Dyk said.

“In key moments we need to keep the possession and get all goals from gains at all cost,” she added.

Against England, the Proteas looked to go back to the basics, be more decisive and push the Roses from the start of the game, which they failed to do when England came to Cape Town last year.

The players came out firing, pressurising England from the first throw and even taking a lead into half time. The concentration seemed to falter along the way, however, and in the third quarter,
they struggled to contain England and the Roses’ attack proved too much for the South African backline.

After the defeat to Jamaica and a third loss to England in four games, the New Zealand game on Friday takes on a whole new meaning.

Van Dyk believes that winning these games would help acquire better knowledge about the side, which combinations work and the way forward. It’s also an opportunity to see how the Proteas measure up against the best, with the Silver Ferns current world champions.

“All these games are important. The balance between testing combinations under pressure and establishing a competitive, lasting, winning culture is crucial for all the top teams in this new phase. The sacrifice needs to be worth it. But that is easier said than done,” Van Dyk said.

The elements of this squad came together very well at the World Cup under Norma Plummer, but right now, creating the completed product seems some way off.

Since Dorette Badenhorst took over as the head coach, she won the African Championships, but has won only a single game since.

The transition from Plummer to Badenhorst is a topic that is taboo in the Proteas camp and they were unwilling to discuss this further with the Mail & Guardian. In fact, the Proteas refused to answer any of this newspaper’s questions, deeming them not sufficiently positive.

Van Dyk believes it is unfair to compare the situations of Plummer and Badenhorst. “People are quick to forget that Norma did not change things overnight, it took time and patience,” she said.

“What we could focus on is bundling the small gains just like Norma did until we reach a snowball effect. Norma decided to keep an experienced and already existing starting line up and could use that from the start to build on. This is not the case this time around,” van Dyk added.

For now, the seemingly thin-skinned, smiling Proteas will … stay positive?

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Eyaaz Matwadia
Eyaaz Matwadia
Eyaaz Matwadia is a member of the Mail & Guardian's online team.

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