South Africa should not be underestimated

THERE were a number of standout performances throughout the SPAR Challenge Test series between South Africa and Malawi as a couple of regulars well and truly stepped up to the plate and delivered for their home nation. The Proteas walked away with a clean sweep of the tournament claiming a record breaking 41-goal victory in the final game of the series, with a number of players finding themselves in new positions and showcasing the impressive amount of depth the nation has.

This series was a good test of experience and new combinations with the South African side seeing four new debutants take the court and not skip a beat, as shown through the convincing results. The SPAR Proteas have steadily risen up the ranks over the past couple of years and once again proved they are not one-trick ponies. Instead, they have a multitude of options that can come on and effectively ply their trade to dismantle teams and claim resounding wins.

For the best part of the 2020 Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season Adelaide Thunderbirds defensive midcourter Shadine van der Merwe plied her trade out in wing defence. With her impressive closing speed, dogged style of defence and ability to work her opponent into the ground, van der Merwe proved to be a reliable and handy candidate out in the midcourt. but throughout this tournament she showcased another side to her game style, one that does not come out that often, spending portions of the series out in goal defence. The SPAR Protea showcased her ability to be a menace inside the defensive goal circle and provide that different element to the line-up. Her connection with Phumza Maweni was impressive with the two able to cohesively work together to create strong wall in defence to repel the Queen’s attacking forays. Van der Merwe saw the opportunity to stand up to the task and did so in style claiming the Player of the Tournament credit to her high work rate, while youngsters Tshina Mdau and Nicola Smith proved to be handy defensive options, highlighting the array of talent they have coming through the pathways in South Africa.

Inside the goal circle the SPAR Proteas have plenty of options with Lenize Potgieter the go-to girl given her proficiency and accuracy. Despite her unconventional shooting style, Potgieter is one of the most reliable goalers in the line-up and that showed throughout the series slotting 19 goals from 21 attempts in the opening test, before upping the ante in the second test to nail 32 goals straight and take out MVP honours. She also added another string to her bow, spending time out in the unfamiliar position of goal attack, working the ball down the court and using her netball nous to have an influence.

Outside of Potgieter however, there is no shortage of viable candidates that ooze goal scoring ability and firepower to command the ball. Sigi Burger often flies under the radar but is a force to be reckoned with, able to step up to the plate and deliver at a high efficiency, given her strong holds and commanding nature under the post. she partnered well with Potgieter out the front in Game 2 while fellow goal shooter Ine-Mari Venter is another exciting prospect for the SPAR Proteas. Spending time with both the Melbourne Vixens and Queensland Firebirds in the SSN, Venter is now set to join the Saracens Mavericks in the VNSL. A traditional holding style goal shooter, Venter is a cool, calm and composed customer who was able to come on and hit the scoreboard with relative ease as shown in the opening game where she slotted a game-high 28 goals from 30 attempts at 93 per cent. The likes of Lefebre Rademan is another option inside the circle with her classy movement, quick change of directions and fast hands all key while youngster Kamogelo Maseko could be one to watch for the future.

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