CAPE TOWN - PATHREE of Africa's top netball nations – South Africa, Uganda and Namibia – will be fighting it out for top honours in the SPAR Challenge International Tri-Nations series at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from today until Wednesday.
The SPAR Proteas are ranked fifth in the world, the Uganda She-Cranes are seventh and the Namibian Debmarine Desert Jewels are 23rd.
The tournament is very important for all three nations, who will all be seeking to boost their world ranking and gain very important international experience after a year in which the Covid-19 pandemic played havoc with preparations for next year's Commonwealth Games and the World Cup in Cape Town in 2023.
The SPAR Baby Proteas and the President's XII will also be taking the court during the tournament.
Proteas head coach Dorette Badenhorst said yesterday that the absence of some of her key players, who are playing league netball in Australia and the United Kingdom, will provide opportunities for rising stars and give some indication of the depth of talent in South Africa.
“The overseas players have been prevented from coming home because of Covid restrictions, but I am very excited about the young players who have stepped in to take their places,” said Badenhorst.
“The biggest challenge has been in the circle, because the overseas players are mainly shooters and defenders. But it has been exciting to try out new circle combinations and I am very happy with the progress we have made.
“The new members of the team are being helped by the experienced squad members and we had an excellent training camp.”
She said the Tri-nations tournament was an ideal way to grow netball in Africa.
Uganda coach Rashid Mubiru said his team's preparations had gone well, despite the problems caused by the pandemic.
“We are excited to play here, because it is an opportunity for us to earn rankings points. We are also striving to qualify for next year's Commonwealth Games and the 2023 World Cup and it will be useful to play at the venue for the World Cup,” said Rashid.
Namibian head coach Julene Meyer said her team had to use innovative methods to prepare for the tournament, because of Covid-19 restrictions and the vast distances in Namibia.
“Our immediate goal is to qualify for the pinnacle netball events and we will benefit from playing against two of Africa's top three teams,” she said.
The Proteas play Nambia in the opening match this morning and Uganda at 6pm.
There will be no spectators at the matches but will be televised live on SuperSport Variety 4 (209).