Samsung Diamonds head coach Lisa Alexander says she expects the Aussies to be given “no quarter” when they take on South Africa in the opening game of the Quad Series in Auckland on Saturday.
After all, the Aussies have long memories.
In January the Diamonds had to scrap until the final whistle to hold off a rampant South African outfit, trailing by a goal at half-time before finally prevailing 54-50.
And just 12 months ago they given another shake by the Proteas, winning by just six goals in the second game of September’s Quad Series, after entering the half-time break with the scores locked.
Days later the South Africans would knock off England, capping one of the most evenly matched series in history.
So it’s with confidence but respect that the Diamonds prepare to face a foe that had a Commonwealth Games to forget, but welcomes back some key personnel in time to take on Australia, England and New Zealand over the next nine days.
Alexander says the Proteas are already in New Zealand and are clearly throwing everything at the series.
“(We’re expecting) absolutely just a cracking performance. They’ve been over in Auckland already, they’re preparing quite early for this tournament,” she says.
“The first game there’ll be no quarter given. It’ll be absolutely world class netball that you’ll see and we’re expecting nothing less than improvement from them.”
While the major ins are in the goaling end, with Lenize Potgieter returning to the goal shooter bib after injury ended her Commonwealth Games campaign before it began, Alexander says the entire Proteas outfit will ride the Suncorp Super Netball premiership-winning form of defender Karla Pretorius.
“Particularly off the back of Karla Pretorius’ breakout season this year with the Lightning, performances that will give a lot of confidence to their team.”
“They’re coached by the wily Norma Plummer, who’s the previous Australian coach and she knows us very well, so it’ll be a cracking game.”
Diamonds shooter Caitlin Bassett says the Proteas present a major challenge, particularly in the first game of a series.
“When we played against them earlier in the year they were formidable, so (we’re) looking forward to that as a start,” she says.
“Coming up against South Africa first is a great Test for us. They’ve obviously been building every single time that they’ve come out on court.”
Bassett says that while the Quad Series is the immediate focus, the team also has one eye on next year’s World Cup and winning its fourth consecutive world title.
And she insists the disappointment of a one-goal loss in the Commonwealth Games gold medal game is now a distant memory.
“As our preparation for World Cup it is great to play against those three countries,” she says.
“We’re setting our sights on World Cup, and while it would be easy to sit and reflect on the Commonwealth Games, there isn’t a lot of time for that. We have less than a year until we have to get over to Liverpool and play against the best countries in the world, so we really do need to reset.”
“The last time we played England obviously was that gold medal match, and we get to play them again in Newcastle, but really looking forward to our first Test over in Auckland and having some new faces in our group and Kelsey Browne potentially making her debut.
The Samsung Diamonds take on the South Africa Spar Proteas in the opening game of the Quad Series on Saturday at 12pm AEST.