Sa netball must now play catch-up
South Africa's national netball coach Carin Strauss believes the country's players have got to change and adapt their game in a hurry, if they are to catch up with the game's leading nations.
Strauss, appointed to the position by Netball South Africa in March, when she took over from Burta de Kock, revealed her four-year plan to the media in Tshwane in the company of visiting international coach Lyn Gunson.
In recent years the country has struggled, losing their world ranking of fifth and sliding to ninth overall.
The team also lost their number one spot in Africa to Malawi last year.
"The game has changed a lot right now. It is more physical, and the players are aggressive and in peak condition," said Strauss.
The responsibility of reversing the losing trend is on Strauss who has to bring the team back on par with the likes of England, New Zealand and Australia - a daunting task for a team that does not have as much support as those countries.
But Strauss made it clear that in the long term, the country's emphasis should be on Under-17 girls.
In the meantime, the coach has to concentrate on selecting the kind of player who can deal with the rigours of international netball.
When the National Championships drew to a close on Saturday, a squad of 30 deemed fit for grooming, was announced as a first step towards the goal.
The biggest difference between her team and the previous ones, Strauss said, was that whereas previously the national coach was isolated from her players, this time around the responsibility will be shared with regional and club coaches.
Strauss also plans on having the players at the University of Potchefstroom for frequent assessments with a sports therapist.
"We will monitor them through the regional coaches, and if a player shows a lack of discipline they will be removed.
"We think these 30 players are capable of playing internationally, and all have a special talent," she said.
They therefore are expected to show a 20 percent improvement every two months.
Strauss said she is not bothered by the quota system, which some have claimed is at the root of the teams' bad performance.
"It is not a factor at all - you get to know who to play when and how.
"We have to try different combinations and most importantly, we have to identify and introduce a typical South African style of playing," she said.
To assist with ideas, NSA has also roped in International Federation of Netball Association coach Gunson.
A former New Zealand player and coach, Gunson has said more cohesion in South African netball is what is needed.
"A lot of knowledgeable people are scattered all over. A turnaround is entirely possible but we need to do that by having placement and exchange programmes in other parts of the world, where they would return and plough back," said Gunson.
l First up for Strauss and her team is the five-nations tournament hosted by Gauteng Central where teams from New Zealand, the Malawi national team, Zambia and Jamaica will compete;
l Next Strauss will select 15 players for a Test against Barbados in October.
l Third on the list is an away tri-nations tour against World no. 4 Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago in November; and
l Fourth is a home tri-nations challenge with Botswana and England.
The technical staff will also attend a six-nations tournament in Singapore at the end of August, to watch Samoa and Barbados who they plan to play against in order to better their rankings.
"There is no reason why we are ranked number 9 and it is time this changed," said the coach.
Anja Zandberg (Boland), Mari-Lise Linde (Free State), Maryke Holtzhauzen (Free State), Adele Niemand (Free State), Elzette Engelbrecht (Free State), Tsakane Mbewe (Gauteng Central), Refiloe Mochaka (Gauteng Central), Mary Ngwenya (Gauteng Central), Ina Kakora (Gauteng East), Michelle du Preez (Gauteng East), Mampho Tsotetsi (Gauteng East), Annelle Besselaar (Gauteng North), Erin Burger (Gauteng North), Leigh-Ann Zackey (Gauteng West), Claudia Basson (Griqualand West), Liezel Wium (Griqualand West), Dumsani Chauke (Nelson Mandela Bay), Zanele Mdodana (Nelson Mandela Bay), Sameshia Esau (Nelson Mandela Bay), Amanda Mynhardt (North West South), Ilzeri Britz (North West South), Zukelwa Cwaba (Amathole), Nosiphiwo Goda (Amathole), Kgomotso Itlhabanyeng (North West East), Rahab Ngobeni (Waterberg), Bongiwe Msomi (KZN Midlands), Precious Mthembu (Ethekwini)