The SPAR Proteas have something of a mountain to climb when they play Jamaica in the preliminary rounds of the Netball World Cup in Liverpool in July.
The SPAR Proteas and the Sunshine Girls have played each other on 14 occasions, with Jamaica winning 12 matches and South Africa two.
While the SPAR Proteas have been playing on a regular basis against Australia, England and New Zealand, thanks to the annual Quad Series over the past few years, they are not as familiar with the team from the Caribbean.
Jamaica is well known for its exceptionally tall shooters and defenders, who make life difficult for their opponents in the circle at either end of the court. The teams last met at the Commonwealth Games in Australia last year, with Jamaica winning by 57 goals to 46.
Their previous meeting was in Kingston in 2012, when the SPAR Proteas played a three-Test series against Jamaica. South Africa won the first Test 56-49, but lost the next two, 61-46 and 63-48 respectively.
The two teams have met only four times in World Cup tournaments. In the first Netball World Tournament, as it was known then, in the English seaside town of Eastbourne, the Sunshine Girls beat the South Africans 46-27. Jamaica finished in fifth place, and South Africa sixth.
Four years later, in Perth, Australia, the South Africans beat Jamaica 26-19 in a low-scoring match. South Africa won the bronze medal that year, while Jamaica came sixth – their lowest ever position at a world tournament.
South Africa did not play in the World Cup for the next 25 years because of the international sports boycott. Although they returned in 1995, they did not come up against the Sunshine Girls until the 2003 Netball World Championship in Kingston, Jamaica, where the home side won by 54 goals to 33. Jamaica won the bronze medal in their home tournament, while the SPAR Proteas came fifth.
In Singapore in 2011, Jamaica thrashed the SPAR Proteas 74-45. They finished in fourth place and South Africa came fifth.
Although the Sunshine Girls are a team to be reckoned with, the SPAR Proteas go into the 2019 Netball World Cup with renewed confidence after recent excellent performances against Australia, England and New Zealand. Several Proteas have also been gaining invaluable experience playing in professional leagues overseas and the Sunshine Girls will find they are up against a battle-hardened outfit when they take on the SPAR Proteas on Sunday July 14.
Images – DUIF du TOIT / Gallo Images