World ranking: 5th
Previous Commonwealth Games results: 1998 (4th), 2002 (5th), 2006 (7th), 2010 (6th), 2014 (6th).
Commonwealth Games win/loss record: 15 wins, 12 losses.
South Africa are fired up for their best ever showing at an international tournament, with highly competitive performances against the top three nations in the last twelve months.
Since the 2015 World Cup, the side has been dramatically strengthened by the oversight of Australians Norma Plummer and Nicole Cusack. Not only have they enhanced techniques and tactics of individuals and combinations, they have fought for better conditions for players and instilled greater professionalism, allowing athletes to consistently shine on the world stage.
This in turn has lead to overseas league recruitment of most of their starting seven and further improvements from week-to-week pressure matches, improved facilities and high-level coaching.
Captain Bongiwe Msomi has impressed in the U.K. Superleague at Surrey Storm and Wasps, and has been snapped up by the Adelaide Thunderbirds for 2018. Her key weapons are speed and elusiveness, very quick sighting and release of feeds to shooters. She also has the perfect balance of tenacity and composure that is expected of a leader.
Paired with her for almost a decade has been 100-test veteran Erin Burger, who debuted at age 19 in 2007, and will be at her third Games. She was player of the tournament at the 2011 World Cup in Singapore, and joined the Queensland Firebirds in 2017. Burger has uncanny netball instincts, seeming to effortlessly pull in possession, and calmly break down the court, feeding on the run from anywhere.
Dual-Commonwealth Games veteran, Precious Mthembu, is the only key player not on an overseas contract. She is more likely to deny space to her opposing wing attack than get a spectacular intercept, but frequently receives cautions and warnings from top-level umpires. Izette Griesel is the least experienced of the centre court players.
Featuring in the shooting circle will be the powerhouse Lenize Potgieter and former captain Maryka Holtzhausen. The stature, excellent timing and positioning, and ever-reliable shooting of Potgieter saw her recruited by Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic last year. The scoring structure of South Africa relies heavily on her ability to present a very clear hold which is fed quickly. Defenders are rarely able to undermine her confidence.
Meanwhile, Holtzhausen’s return from an ACL injury in 2016 was the final link in the chain for the Proteas. Playing both wing attack and goal attack for Severn Stars in England, she tends to play more of a feeding role, but her calmness and accuracy are the perfect complement for the dominant Potgieter.
Phumza Maweni has taken the goal keeper bib as her own in the past few years. Like Holtzhausen, she has been playing with the Stars, but is the only starting-line player to never have been at the Commonwealth Games. Her big improvement in the past few years has been cleaning up her defensive hold, moving her feet much faster around opponents and knowing which balls to go for on the fly.
At goal defence, superstar Karla Pretorius looks set to have a strong Games campaign. Playing for Sunshine Coast Lightning, she was MVP of the grand final in the inaugural Suncorp Super Netball season. The popular, rangy athlete has impressive natural reading of the game and her defensive efforts on every play are the equal best in the business.
Three years ago in Sydney, South Africa couldn’t get close to the top four teams and only barely beat Malawi in the playoff for fifth place. The Proteas have since left their African rivals behind and have started threatening the top nations. In the 2017 Quad series games, they lost no match by more than 7 goals and registered a win over England.
Fearless as they are now, they have perhaps an unlucky draw in Pool A for the Gold Coast.
Had they been in Pool B they might perhaps have had marginally easier battles with New Zealand and England to advance to the semi finals. Instead, they are forced to match up against an in-form Australia, who beat the Proteas twice last year, and whom they have never beaten in more than 30 attempts.
They also face Jamaica, who have lost to the South Africans only once, in 2012 when Jhaniele Fowler was injured in the last quarter and Romelda Aiken wasn’t in the team.
Jamaica’s form and mindset were stunning in their recent win in the Taini Jamison Series, but South Africa only have to beat one of either Australia or Jamaica to have a crack at a medal for the first time.
If there is any weakness for South Africa, it is that although they have some depth and experience on the bench, none of their reserve players could truly replicate the excellence of the starting seven.
Commonwealth Games team
Bongiwe Msomi (c) WA/C
Karla Pretorius (vc) GD/WD/GK
Erin Burger C/WD/WA
Izette Griesel (nee Lubbe) C/WA
Maryka Holtzhausen GA/WA
Danelle Lochner GA/GS
Phumza Maweni GK
Precious Mthembu WD/C
Shadine van der Merwe GD/GK
Ine-Mari Venter GS/GA
Zanele Vimbela GK/GD
Lenize Potgieter GS
Coaches: Norma Plummer and Elsje Jordaan
Last five international results:
South Africa lost to England 47-52 (2018)
South Africa lost to New Zealand 46-51 (2018)
South Africa lost to Australia 50-54 (2018)
South Africa def Fiji 83-36 (2017)
South Africa def England 54-51 (2017)
I cannot see a top four finish