Returning to action after the lockdown, the Proteas netball team will include some fresh faces this week, as the national squad looks ahead to the 2023 Netball World Cup on home soil.
Competing for the first time in 10 months, the Proteas will take on perennial rivals Malawi in a three-match series at Sun City starting tonight.
Following a training camp last week, a 30-member squad was whittled down to a 15-member team by head coach Dorette Badenhorst and her management team.
While they needed to remain competitive, Badenhorst said it had required a balancing act to also include younger players who were likely to play a role at the 2023 showpiece in Cape Town.
“Our challenge was balancing experience with new blood,” she said.
“The goal is 2023, so we needed to make sure we picked the best for this series and also make sure that each player who is here will get a run so we can see what they can do.”
Though they hadn’t received much of a chance to work on their unity as a squad this season, with the Covid-19 pandemic virtually derailing the 2020 campaign, Badenhorst believed they were ready to put up a fight against a Malawi squad who were desperate to prove they were still a force at global level.
While the Proteas finished fifth at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and fourth at last year’s World Cup, achieving their best result in decades, the Malawi Queens finished outside the top five, with a rising Ugandan team threatening to overtake them as leading challengers to the SA side’s African crown.
“The mood in the camp is high, and I think we’ve pushed ourselves in training,” Badenhorst said.
The Proteas, ranked fifth in the world, will take on sixth-ranked Malawi in Test matches this evening (7pm), tomorrow (7pm) and Sunday (1pm).