NATIONAL netball coach Carin Strauss has welcomed the return of five experienced players for the three-Test series against their hoodoo side Malawi in Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal.

The matches will be played at the Bhekuzulu Hall indoor sport centre at the University of Zululand.

The series opener will be played tomorrow, the second Test on Friday and the final match on Saturday.

The players who have returned to the Proteas are Christine Markgraaff, Maryke Holtshauzen, Amanda Mynhardt, Sindiwe Gumede and Erin Burger.

Strauss is adamant the returnees will add impetus to the squad against the traditionally obdurate Malawians who have caused the South Africans so much grief over the past few years. The Proteas have to win the series and improve their international ranking so they can take part in the Commonwealth Games in Delhi later this year.

They are currently ranked sixth, while Malawi are fifth.

The final squad of 12 players was named yesterday after a weekend of trials in Pretoria.

"The team have stepped up their performance and are sharper than last year when we lost to Malawi in the final of the Cosana Games. Markgraaff has been unavailable for two years and Holtshauzen last played for the Proteas in 2007. We are confident that they will bring stability to the team," Strauss said yesterday. "We need to win the series to ensure that we qualify for the Commonwealth Games and victory will also motivate us for the World Netball Championships in Singapore next year.

"There is no way we can let Malawi to stand on our way to the Commonwealth Games."

The squad is: Chrisna Bootha, Gumede, Markgraaff, Holtshauzen, Nthabiseng Moabi, Burger, Liesel Wium, Zanele Ndogane, Precious Mthembe, Lee-Ann Zackey, Mynhardt and Zukelwa Cwaba.