Johannesburg – The future of the national netball team is as encouraging as ever, head coach Elize Kotze believes, after a young invitation side successfully defended their title in the annual Diamond Challenge series.
South Africa, without a number of first-choice players for various reasons, went unbeaten in the series, securing a 59-45 victory over Zimbabwe in the final in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday evening.
While the unfancied Zimbabweans are ranked 19 places below the Proteas, Kotze was delighted with her inexperienced squad for maintaining their composure.
“These players have been tough – one had an elbow in the face – but when you play African opposition this is what you must expect,” Kotze said.
“They stood their ground, fought through the battle and I'm so proud of South Africa today. These ladies have done it, and now it's the end of our international season, so we can look forward to the new season next year.”
Bongi Msomi, who captained the team in the absence of regular skipper Maryka Holtzhausen, lauded the younger players for retaining the national team's momentum.
A full-strength Proteas squad had stunned England five days earlier to win a home Tri-Nations series.
“I think this tournament was so good for us,” Msomi said.
“When we're at home we tend to rule, so that's what we did, we just ruled.”
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe coach Ledwine Dondo celebrated her side's gutsy performance in the final, after defeating a Zambian side ranked five places above them in the round robin phase.
“Our confidence has improved and we are no longer afraid of any team,” Dondo said.
“We know we can compete, and we've done that here.”
The international seven-a-side season has come to an end, but South Africa will have one more assignment in the 2013 campaign when they compete in a shortened format of the game at the Fast5 World Netball Series in Auckland, New Zealand, next week. – Sapa