Early survival key for the Proteas
Though they would probably like to win the netball World Cup, the South African team leaves for New Zealand knowing their realistic goal for now should be to survive the group stages.
The team has never had quite this much pressure heaped on them before, but when they touch down in Auckland today, the words of Minister of Sports and Recreation Makhenkesi Stofile will probably still be with them.
"Go out there and bring the cup with you, and if not, come back as champions, knowing you were proud participants every step of the way," he told them.
For the Proteas to advance in the tournament, which runs from November 10-17, they would have to survive the group stages in which they are grouped with Barbados, Malaysia and, ominously, England.
South Africa have not beaten England in a long while, and their practice matches against Botswana, Uganda and Malawi produced mixed fortunes.
With the two top teams from each group going through to the quarterfinals, Burtha de Kock's side would have to get the better of Malaysia and Barbados, whom they play on the second and third day of the tournament.
"We are capable of winning against any team," Bronwyn Bock-Jonathan, the team's captain said. "In our group we won't have it easy since our team is largely inexperienced. We have been inconsistent, but we are ranked fifth in the world and the situation on the court of play can change in an instant."
Bock-Jonathan and goal shooter Sindisiwe Gumede are the only two players in the team who have played at a World Cup.
The team has been promised a million rand pay check by the sponsor, Spar should they win the tournament, but Mimi Mthethwa, president of Netball South Africa, felt corporate South Africa could do more for the sport.
"It is unfair to place us under the same pressure [as other sports], while the playing fields are not level," she said. "I find it strange that neither our administration or management have ever been embroiled in any scandal, but we struggle to get the resources."
SA Team: Karin Venter, Simnikiwe Malusi, Leigh-Ann Zackey, Adele Niemand, Christine Markgraaf, Bronwyn Bock-Jonathan (captain), Sindisiwe Gumede, Claudia Basson, Tsakane Mbewe, Precious Mthembu, Refiloe Mochaka, Erin Burger (vice captain).