While they picked up only one win in their six Tests over the last few months, the SA netball team have given themselves a major confidence boost by taking the world’s top sides to the line in the build-up to the Commonwealth Games.
In September last year, closing out the Australasian leg of the Quad Series, the Proteas secured a rare victory over England in Invercargill.
Despite spending a few months apart, the largely amateur squad came out firing at the end of January, falling in a 54-50 defeat to Australia in London, as they narrowly missed out on their maiden victory over the world champions.
The following week, turning out on home soil in Joburg, the Proteas delivered another fine performance, and though they lost 51-46 to New Zealand, they gave the Silver Ferns a real shake for the first time in more than two decades.
In their final match of the four-nation series, played in front of a packed crowd at Ellis Park, they were edged out in a 52-47 defeat to England, as they settled for the bottom spot in the series.
Proteas head coach Norma Plummer was delighted with her team’s performance, and while the veteran mentor admitted they were still making errors under pressure, she believed they could challenge for their first Commonwealth Games medal on Australia’s Gold Coast in April.
“I think what these girls have produced, with the lack of opportunity to really train together for a period of time, has been outstanding,” Plummer said.
“But we can’t keep doing it on an eggshell. We’ve got to have the opportunity to work with these players.”
Proteas captain Bongi Msomi was equally satisfied with the improvement shown in the national side in recent months, and she too was confident they could put up a challenge for a place on the podium.
“Every time we step on the court against the top teams, we reduce their winning margins,” Msomi said.
“We are growing with every match, and we believe we can beat the very best.”