The Silver Ferns will be focussed on backing up their performance from the Constellation Cup as they turn to the New World Quad Series to ensure progress made last month gains momentum.
A maiden Cup win over the Australian Diamonds in September received a pass mark from Waimarama Taumaunu but the Silver Ferns coach says backing up in the Quad Series was “hugely important”.
“It is the difference between proving that we have made real progress in terms of our ability to put on a consistent performance or whether we actually did make progress and it was just a fluke,” she told media before departing for Australia ahead of Sunday’s opening test against South Africa in Adelaide.
The Ferns welcome back Casey Williams and Maria Tutaia into the selection mix after both missed the third test against Australia in last month’s 2-1 series victory over their trans-Tasman rivals.
Cantabrian Anna Thompson was called in the side for the test in Christchurch as cover for Tutaia and retains her spot in the squad, although her inclusion this time could be more as a utility for both the midcourt and shooting circle.
Thompson found herself predominantly on the wing for the Canterbury Tactix in the ANZ Championship and may find herself vying for the wing attack role as she looks to add to her 10 test caps.
Taumaunu has however hinted that youngster Bailey Mes could make her international debut against South Africa while fellow rookie Shannon Francois – who got the call-up to the side last week to replace injured wing Grace Rasmussen – is another midcourt option.
Vice-captain Laura Langman is also a possibility for the wing attack bib although it would be a hard call for Taumaunu to shift the influential centre, who is playing perhaps her best netball, from such a pivotal position.
Competition for the defensive mix will remain intense with Williams itching to get on court and play her first international since last year’s world championships.
The Ferns’ captain missed the Constellation Cup as she recovered from a knee injury but has been training fully with the side and will add plenty of steel to an already formidable defensive wall of Katrina Grant, Leana de Bruin and Anna Harrison who combined well last month.
The statistics are heavily favouring the Ferns from recent match-ups – a 30-goal margin between the two sides at last year’s world championships – although South African coach Elize Kotze remained confident her side had made progress since then.
“We had a great quarter against them at the world championships in Singapore last year, when we took an early lead in our match, and we believe we can give them a good game this time,” she told reporters. “What is important is that we should have progressed since then.”
Meanwhile, England face world champions Australia in their opening match on Sunday before the Quad Series heads to Newcastle next week.