SPAR Proteas on an Upward Trajectory

14 March 2013

2012 was a very successful year for the SPAR National Netball team. They won the inaugural Diamond Challenge against Malawi, Zambia and Botswana, achieved a whitewash in a three-Test series against Northern Ireland, and beat world number four, Jamaica, in a test match for the first time in 43 years. 

Coach Elize Kotze, who was named gsport4girls Coach of the Year in December, believes the most important series of all was the one in which South Africa lost every match. The Proteas, ranked sixth in the world, were invited to play against the top three countries – Australia, New Zealand and England – in the Quad Series in Australasia. They lost all their matches, but Kotze says they came away a much improved unit. “It was extremely important for all of us,” Kotze explained. “It is all very well to play the teams ranked below us or just above us, but playing those top three countries takes things to a whole new level. 
“If we are going to grow, then we need to measure ourselves against the very best. Now we know what we’re up against. In all our matches, we managed to be very competitive for 30 minutes, but we couldn’t keep that up for the full hour. “So now we know that we have to be tougher, mentally and physically, if we are going to force our way to the top.”
Kotze said the series had helped her to see which players had reached their ceiling and those who still had scope for improvement. “It was very interesting – we had players with masses of experience, who were unable to perform consistently, and we had some young players with very little experience, who just blossomed. Bongi (Bongiwe Msomi) grew with every game, and Vanes-Mari du Toit was another who really relished the pressure. 
“We did some hard thinking for the games in January. The players realised just how much commitment was needed when competing,” she said. “What excites me is that I know there is still so much room for improvement. We’re a very young team, and I know that we can get there,” said Kotze. SPAR Proteas Vice-Captain Zanele Mdodana agreed that the series had been vitally important for the team. “We all learned so much from the tournament,” she said. “We have Commonwealth Games in 2014 and the World Cup the following year, so we really needed to measure ourselves against the top teams. “We all enjoyed the experience. In the past, we were sometimes not very keen to play the best teams, but this time everyone was excited about the opportunity. 
The team spirit was high and we all came away better players. And we can only get better – South Africa’s got talent.”