Netball needs to fast-track experience for future SA stars
● The first step in Netball SA’s plan to make the Spar Proteas a force in world netball has been such a success that it’s now exposed the next step. The next rung of players below this needs international experience. And Proteas coach Dorette Badenhorst believes they need it fast.
The rise of the Proteas over the past few years and their growing stature against the powerhouses of world netball has seen more and more SA players ply their trade in the top overseas leagues. This has made them an even greater asset for the Proteas — when they’re available.
When they’re not — as has been the case with nine Proteas who were unavailable for the Spar Tri-Nations Challenge under way at the Cape Town International Convention Centre — the challenge for Badenhorst is a secondary lineup of players in need of more consistent international experience.
“It’s not a lack of talent that we have, but rather a lack of experience at international level for our next rung of players,” said Badenhorst, who has had to blood five new caps for this series.
“For the past five years we’ve focused on playing the top teams in the world such as Australia, New Zealand and England as much as possible to get better. We had to do this, because the only way to get better is to play the best. But the converse is that you always play your strongest team because you’re going for the win. So when you lose a number of your starting players, as we have done for this series, you don’t have enough players who have experience of international netball.”
One of the new caps, shooter Nonsikelelo Mazibuko, has stood out for Badenhorst despite her inexperience. And in the secondary teams she sees potential as well.
“Nonsikelelo has talent and she’s standing strong in that circle. She’s still young and taking her opportunity here. Then in the President’s XII, I think Nkechi Pamela Chukwu has lifted her hand. Jeante Strydom has also looked good, but is still a bit too inconsistent. I like the height of Nicola Smith in the Spar Baby Proteas, and Elmere van der Berg has potential there as well but needs to get a bit tougher on court.”
It’s a Catch-22. The only way they’ll get that experience is exactly at competitions such as this one. Badenhorst accepts this, but would like to see the gap become smaller so that it’s not such a big step up for these players.
“It’s a fine balance of giving these new caps experience, but also not just throwing them in against a physically tough team like Uganda and they fail. You can end a player’s career that way. We need our Presidents XII playing more international competitions. The game at international level is faster and more physical. At the moment the gap between our regular Proteas players and the secondary lineup is too big and we need to close it.”