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Pretoria, South Africa: When the latest World Netball rankings were released this month, South Africa was once again ranked fifth, behind Australia, New Zealand, England, and Jamaica.

The SPAR Proteas have held this position since 2015, and breaking into the top four appears to be an insurmountable task.

New SPAR Proteas head coach Jenny van Dyk says improving the team’s ranking is not her top priority.

“The ranking system is very complicated. You can get more points from playing teams ranked above you than those below.  The previous head coach, Norma Plummer, preferred to play the top teams more than the lower teams, but I would like to have a mixture.

“For instance, if we are going to play a series against England, I would like to play teams like Wales (ranked 9th), Scotland (10th) and Northern Ireland (11th) beforehand,” she said.

“This would give me the chance to give some of the more inexperienced players court time to build their confidence.”

Van Dyk, who has been appointed to take the SPAR Proteas through to the Netball World Cup in Sydney in 2027, said she would prefer to play bilateral series rather than multi-team series.

“You have a better chance of improving your rankings points in bilateral series,” she said.

“In a multi-team tournament, you can earn valuable points, but you can also lose points.”

She said she wanted to focus her attention on winning matches and series. She has an impressive history of leading teams to victory. As coach of the Gauteng Jaguars, she won five successive domestic Netball League titles, Brutal Fruit Netball League (2017 &2018) and Telkom Netball League between 2019 to 2021. The team played in eight successive finals. In Varsity Netball, her team won three titles and were undefeated in 2019.

As head coach of Tuks (University of Pretoria), she won six gold medals and three silver in the University Sport Premier League.

Her record at the SPAR National Netball Championships is equally impressive, with eight gold medals between 2012 and 2022.

Van Dyk said she has an excellent working relationship with the other netball coaches.

“We played together and have developed as coaches together, and more importantly, we like each other.  There is a new, younger generation of coaches and we all know that it is important to support one another as the team develops,” said Van Dyk.

Several top SPAR Proteas retired from netball after the Netball World Cup in Cape Town last year, but Van Dyk is happy with the depth of talent in South Africa.

“I am trying to get as many as possible to play professional netball in England, Australia and New Zealand to gain court experience,” she said.

“We have some outstanding young players, and I am confident about the future.”

Photo Credit: Reg Caldecott