14 June 2012, Anthony Moruthane
Captain Amanda Mynhardt's world number six South Africa women's netball team are anticipating Friday evening's first test against Jamaica, the world number four ranked netball nation, with excitement and a dash of caution.
"Not knowing what to expect from the young, new Jamaican "Sunshine Girls" is why there is so much anticipation amongst the SPAR Protea camp," said Mynhardt after Wednesday's practice session. "However we have settled nicely into Kingston, are enjoying the warmer weather and look forward to our warm up game tomorrow (Thursday) against the Jamaican under21 side."
South Africa, who impressed at last year's World Netball Championships in Singapore where they placed fifth, are keen to test their progress against the favoured hometown team as they start their preparation for next year's Commonwealth Games.
"Playing Jamaica is a fantastic challenge and our girls and management staff are excited at the opportunity to see how we perform against a team - that in my opinion - is undoubtedly one of the best sides in the world," said SPAR Proteas Coach Elize Kotze, .
According to the Jamaican Netball Coach Oberon Pittseron-Nattie, South Africa has surprised one and all with their speed skills and movement around the court, especially in centre court. Pittseron-Nattie holds high regard for Captain Amanda Mynhardt who she says is a "cheeky player."
The Sunshine Girls coach also believes that Erin Burger, the 2011 World Champs player of the tournament brings enormous experience to the side. Pittseron-Nattie also had full praise for the Protea shooters, Chrisna Bootha and Maryka Holtzhausen who she said were "solid and accurate."
Zanele Mdodana remains a very versatile player that can be used on wing attack and wing defence and her partnership as Vice-captain with Captain Amanda Mynhardt seems to be working wonderfully well.
The Proteas are showing more consistency and the intensity of the team has been impressive. With not many changes from last year's successful World Championships team, the continuity of the core of the team has remained the same.
Thuli Qegu from Ekurhuleni is proving to be one of the most exciting and versatile players in the country. Qegu has a tremendous work rate and instinct for the game and has proved herself as a first line opportunity. Then the glamour girl of the team, Vanes-Mari Du Toit's height and elevation will help combat the tall and strong Jamaican shooters.
"The girls love the added pressure and stimulation of playing one of the world's top teams," said Kotze. "We know we are one of the best in the world and we feel time has come for us to challenge a top four spot on the world rankings. We are not yet where we want to be, but after the impressive performance in Singapore last year there is no doubt that we have the capabilities of cracking a top four spot."
The South African team have three new caps in their touring side in Anneret Viljoen, Annemarie Frost, and Mampho Tsotetsi. "These are exciting new players to our side and bring a fresh new feel to the team. The new and old experienced players gel well and bring an exciting mix to our strategy" said Assistant Coach, Lana Krige.
"Through our sponsorship by SPAR, we have been able to tour Jamaica and continue to be a dominant force in international netball," said Kotze. "We now need to play more and more competition and gain more and more confidence and experience."
The test on Friday will be played at 19h30 in the Independence Park, Jamaica. The second test will be played on Sunday at 17h30 with the third and final test taking place at 19h30 on Tuesday.