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After nearly a year of forced inactivity, the SPAR Proteas swing into action on Thursday in the first of three Test matches against longtime African rivals, the Malawi Queens.

The first of the three SPAR Challenge matches will be played in the Superbowl at Sun City at 7pm. The second match will be played on Friday, also at 7pm, with the last match taking place on Sunday at 1pm.

Welcoming the Malawi Queens to the Test series, Netball South Africa (NSA) President Cecilia Molokwane said Malawi was one of the top 10 teams in the world and it was important to play top teams in the buildup to the Netball World Cup in Cape Town in 2023. “We want to develop African netball and we look forward to an all-African final in 2023,” said Molokwane.

SPAR Proteas captain Bongi Msomi said the team was very excited about playing international netball again. “We have some young uncapped players who are coming in to the team and this is the perfect opportunity for us to see what they can do,” said Msomi. “The mood in the camp is great – we are all very excited to be playing against one of the top teams in Africa and the world.

Malawi coach Peace Chawinga-Kaluwa said South Africa could expect a very tough match. “We are trying to grow from where we were at the World Cup in 2015 and 2019. We think there should be an African champion in 2023, and Malawi are trying to do this,” said Chawinga-Kaluwa. Chawinga-Kaluwa confirmed that two of Malawi’s star players, Mwai Kumwenda and Joyce Mvula have not travelled to Sun City. Kumwenda is taking a break in Australia after her team The Melbourne Vixens won the Suncorp Super Netball League whilst Mvula has international club commitments.

SPAR Proteas coach Badenhorst said she would never underestimate the strength of any African team. “The African teams have a different style from teams like Australia, New Zealand and England, and they are all very difficult opponents. “I think the African teams are as good as any other in the world.” Badenhorst confirmed that the SPAR Proteas would be minus their vice-captain, Karla Pretorius and Zan Vimbela who are both injured.

There will be no spectators at the matches, which will be televised live on SuperSport Variety 4.