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Pretoria, Gauteng Province, South Africa: With less than nine months to go before the Netball World Cup (NWC) in Cape Town next year, World Cup winning Australian coach Norma Plummer is once again in charge of the SPAR Proteas for the SPAR Diamond Challenge in Pretoria this week.

Plummer took the SPAR Proteas to the semifinals of the 2019 NWC in Liverpool.

After South Africa’s disappointing performance in the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham earlier this year, where they finished in sixth place, Netball South Africa (NSA) sent out a call to Plummer to take them through to the NWC.

Plummer told media on Monday that she was happy to be back with the team. “The SPAR Diamond Challenge is an important part of our build-up to the World Cup,” she said. “I haven’t been with the team for three years, so this gives me an opportunity to assess the new players who have come into the squad and to select a team for the Quad Series in January,” said Plummer.

South Africa will play Scotland, Zimbabwe and the SPAR President’s XII in the SPAR Diamond Challenge at the Pretoria University Sports Centre, Rembrandt Hall. The tournament starts on Tuesday and the final will be played on Saturday.

SPAR Proteas captain Bongi Msomi said the team was delighted to have Plummer back in charge. “We have huge respect for her,” said Msomi. “We have just had a very good training camp with her in Potchefstroom. The group is very switched on and we are looking forward to the SPAR Diamond Challenge. It will be a good competition and give us a chance to test ourselves.”

Scottish Thistles coach Tamsin Greenway said Scotland had not been to South Africa since 2014. “It’s my first proper tour with the team since I took over two years ago, and many of my players have no experience of playing against African teams,” said Greenway.

“The SPAR Diamond Challenge is a wonderful opportunity to expose the players to one of the great netball teams,” she said. Zimbabwe Gems coach Ropafadzo Matsauki said Zimbabwe was not in the tournament just to make up the numbers, “We are here to compete,” he said. “We need as much game time as possible before the World Cup next year.”

The SPAR President’s XII is made up of players just outside selection for the national team. Plummer said it was important to give these players opportunities to play against international teams. “It is essential to expose players like this to top-class netball so that if they are needed to replace a member of the national team, they won’t be overwhelmed,” said Plummer.

All the matches in the SPAR Diamond Challenge will be televised live on SuperSport Variety 4. Tickets for the games will be available at the venue – R20 for adults and R10 for school going children.