15 Jan 2023

Silver Ferns embark on last international hit-out before World Cup

2:44 pm on 15 January 2023

The path towards the Netball World Cup will be brought into sharp focus when the Silver Ferns embark on their final international hit-out next week.

The Silver Ferns are heading to Cape Town for the Quad Series in what will be the third time South Africa has hosted the series.

New Zealand will take on Australia, England, and South Africa in a dress rehearsal for July's World Cup at the same venue.

It will be the last opportunity the Silver Ferns get to size up their opposition, as they try to defend their World Cup title from Liverpool four years ago.

Dame Noeline Taurua talks to her team during 2022 Quad Series.

Dame Noeline Taurua talking to her side. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

World Netball confirmed to RNZ that the format for the 2023 World Cup will be the same as 2019.

The Silver Ferns will play three round robin games against Uganda, Trinidad & Tobago, and Singapore in Group D.

The top three teams from Groups A and B will form Group F, while the top three teams from Groups C and D will form Group G in preliminary stage two.

Assuming there's no major upsets, the Silver Ferns will be in the same pool as Jamaica and South Africa in stage two, along with either Wales or Sri Lanka.

England and Australia will be jockeying for semi-final spots from Group F.

The teams finishing first and second in groups F and G will go through to the semi-finals, with the top placed team in each group facing the second placed team in the other group.

Silver Ferns' coach Dame Noeline said both Jamaica and South Africa would be tough opponents.

Former Australia coach Norma Plummer who is now in charge of South Africa.

Former Australian coach Norma Plummer is again in charge of South Africa. Photo: Photosport

"It's a tough pool and tough crossovers with Jamaica and with South Africa being at home that adds an extra spiciness I suppose.

"It's going to be tough but for you to win the whole Netball World Cup you've got to be able to win through the pools ... it's all part of it and for us it goes into our preparation now to get ready for those teams. So for us to play South Africa at this point in time is really valuable," Dame Noeline said.

South Africa finished a disappointing sixth place at last year's Commonwealth Games but will be far stronger this year with the nation hosting the World Cup for the first time ever.

Karla Pretorius and Lenize Potgieter are back in the side and veteran Australian coach Norma Plummer is back in charge of the Proteas after answering an SOS call, in what would surely have to be the 78-year-old's swansong.

Dame Noeline said she wasn't surprised South Africa brought in more firepower.

"When you hold the event you want your home team to be as strong as possible, definitely vying for grand finals, if not holding the cup up ... and the timing of those people to come back in is prime for them.

"We play them first up in the Quad Series so it will be good to get a bit of a taster. But also know already what Norma brings and those players bring as well, so we have to get ourselves ready to produce the goods on court."

Pretorius, who's returning after having her first child, was named the Player of the Tournament at the 2019 Netball World Cup where South Africa finished fourth after beating Jamaica to knock them out of the semi finals.

The Proteas only just missed out on making the 2019 final after a two goal loss to Australia.

Jamaica had their best finish at a pinnacle event when they won silver at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games last year.

Ferns Gina Crampton.

Gina Crampton is back after a short break. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

This will be the third consecutive series that the Silver Ferns have taken a minimum of four shooters, and the same ones - Grace Nweke, Maia Wilson, Ameliaranne Ekenasio, and Te Paea Selby-Rickit.

Does the Silver Ferns' coach feel vulnerable if one of those players got injured in the lead up to the World Cup?

"The shooting end has always been tight. Probably Tiana [Metuarau] is in that mix at the moment but there's probably a bit more work that we have to do during the ANZ Premiership to try and get that quality or standard up.

"I'm not too worried about it at this moment in time because we've still got another four or five months but also it probably does highlight a bit of work that we still have to do in that space."

Dame Noeline said the targets for her shooters were pretty clear.

"Volume is really important and at international level everybody is going to be under the pump so you can't be a shooter that offloads all the time, you've got to be prepared to go to the post.

"Also the physicality that happens in the circle and your ability to adapt and availability to the ball is an area that they have to be strong in so those are the things that we'll keep communicating with Tiana."

Elisapeta Toeava

Specialist wing attack Peta Toeava. Photo: Photosport

Two specialist wing attacks - vice captain Gina Crampton, and Peta Toeava were named in the squad of 14 for the Quad Series.

Crampton has been the side's first choice wing attack since 2019, while Toeava got a lifeline last year and impressed in the first leg of the Constellation Cup.

Versatile midcourter Shannon Saunders has filled the role as back up wing attack to Crampton but is expecting her first child.

Dame Noeline said she wouldn't rule out taking two specialist wing attacks to the World Cup.

"At the moment we are not being closed minded as to the make up of the team and I don't believe you can be predictable as to who you want to select or how you want the team to select.

"When you look at a Peta she's been in and out but she was sublime playing against Australia in the first two tests [in October last year] so I think it will come back to players owning their own position, especially coming through the ANZ.

"We'll then look at what the mix needs to be. If I can get specialists I'm happy with that and we'll just see how I can combine combinations and what the make up of the team needs to be."

Jane Watson of the Tactix passes the ball to Karin Burger.

Karin Burger and Jane Watson Photo: PHOTOSPORT

With Crampton back in the side after a sabbatical and defenders Jane Watson and Karin Burger back, the Quad Series will finally give the coach a look at a full strength team.

"Where I think we can shift hugely is defensively getting more gains but having a look of more dominance in our defensive strategy and also personnel so looking forward to seeing what that looks like with Jane coming back into the mix with Karin as well.

"For me it's quite exciting, apart from Gina who has been a solid presence from 2019, we've had quite a few changes in between with people either pregnant or injured.

"We're probably as strong as we could be so now it's just seeing what that looks like in reality and then putting a plan in and around ANZ Premiership to try and move us within that timeframe."

2023 World Cup Pools

  • Group A: Australia Tonga Zimbabwe Fiji
  • Group B: England Malawi Scotland Barbados
  • Group C: Jamaica South Africa Wales Sri Lanka
  • Group D: NZ Uganda Trinidad & Tobago Singapore

World Cup Format

  • After playing three round robin games, the top three teams in each group qualify for Preliminary Stage 2, in which groups A and B form Group F and groups C and D form Group G.
  • The four lowest rank nations in each group advance to Group E - which will decide the World Cup placings 13th to 16th.
  • The previous matches between each nation within a group counts towards the Group F and G standings. Therefore they only face the 3 teams from the opposite groups in Stage 2.
  • The top two finishing nations in Group F and G qualify for the semi-finals. The top team from each group plays the respective second placed team from the other group. The two winners advance to the final, and the two losers play off in the Bronze Medal Match.

Netball Quad Series, Cape Town

  • Sunday 22 January - Silver Ferns v South Africa - 3am
  • Monday 23 January - Silver Ferns v Australia - 5am
  • Wednesday 25 January - Silver Ferns v England - 3am
  • Thursday 26 January - 3rd v 4th playoff - 3am / Final - 5am