Proteas ready to face best-of-the-best
LOOKING FORWARD: Proteas captain Bongiwe Msomi will lead the team in the Quad Series and is looking forward to challenging the top three sides in the world on home soil. IT’S the “biggest event” Netball South Africa (NSA) have hosted and the Proteas hope to celebrate it in fine style over the next five days.
The Quad Series, which also features England, Australia and New Zealand, begins tomorrow in Durban.
The Proteas are yet to win a match in the competition following the first two legs held in Australia and New Zealand in August last year.
But NSA chief executive Blanche de la Guerra said: “I’m so excited and proud that we can host the best netball players in the world and it is so wonderful to watch them on court.
“This is the biggest event (NSA) will be playing hosts to.”
Last year the South African women suffered a series-opening defeat of 68-43 to Australia before losing 65-46 to world No 2 New Zealand, and 57-44 to the England Roses.
South Africa will open the homeleg against England tomorrow and will be looking to build on the positive start they made against the Roses in their previous clash in Melbourne.
The Proteas led the world No 3 nation after the first quarter before England caught up and took the lead to claim victory.
National captain Bongi Msomi said the team had been working hard getting the combinations working as a unit each time they spend time on the court.
“For the SPAR Proteas it is always crucial that we go on court performing at our best. We’ve been working so hard in trying to gel as a team, so we are looking forward to growing instead of going backwards,” Msomi said.
“It is always a privilege to play against the best in the world, and we are definitely looking forward to the Quad Series.
“Not to try and catch up but to improve our own game, we’ve been doing that but we are looking for consistency in doing well.”
Proteas coach Norma Plummer of Australia said, although the national team faced the added pressure of performing in front of a home crowd, they had their sights firmly set on closing the gap on the top three sides in the world.
“You can play teams ranked lower than you and get a win or you can get out and get challenged all the time,” Plummer said.
“If they don’t get challenged, they don’t improve, so we know Australia, England and New Zealand have beaten South Africa by 35 or 55 goals in the past.
“In the last Quad Series we were able to lower that, and our challenge is to keep lowering it and keep challenging.”
Australia and New Zealand will face-off in the first match tomorrow. The final round of the South African leg is on Tuesday. INEVITABLY, the early running at the SA Women’s Open has been made by the name that was on everyone’s lips before the start of the tournament, as it was last year, and just about every other year LeeAnne Pace has entered.
Yesterday, Pace shot an ominous six-under par 66 at San Lameer Country Club, to vault to a two-stroke lead over Monique Smit on four-under, and Stacy Bregman who is a further shot back at threeunder.
Pace, who is chasing her third title in her national Open, started off in the best possible fashion, as she rolled in a birdie on her first hole of the day, to signal her intentions.
A trio of birdies on the third, fourth and fifth holes saw Pace leap out in front.
Her tee-shot on the short third emphasised just how well Pace is striking her irons at the moment, and she will take some stopping if she maintains the crispness of her ball-striking.
By the time she reached the turn, South Africa’s leading women’s golfer was already at five under, scorching the opening half in just 31 shots. With temperatures rising, Pace slowed her charge on the tighter homeward nine, picking up a birdie on the 12th hole, before giving one back on the 16th hole, with an errant teeshot costing her an immaculate card on the day.
But, such is the form and frame of mind that Pace is in, she made almost immediate amends for the error on the final hole of the day, with a birdie on the 18th.
It was a fitting end to what had been a terrific display of ball-striking from the champion, and her rivals would be excused for already having an air of inevitability in their thoughts.
Of course, a lot can still happen over the next 36 holes, and the winds that can sweep through at San Lameer have yet to make a proper visit. Pace had things mostly her own way yesterday, and she will rise today looking to further consolidate a near perfect start to what has become an assault, rather than just a defence of her title.
Behind her, Smit will hope to keep the pressure on, while Bregman’s pedigree in high-profile events is well known. Someone will have to take the fight to Pace to give her something to think about it heading into the weekend.