After a perfect start to their campaign with two wins from two matches in Round 1, coach Annelie Lucas’ team will now face a searching examination of their title hopes against two of the league’s other top title contenders.
The Stings play the Stars in the first match on Saturday and then take on last year’s losing finalists the Jaguars on Sunday at the Heartfelt Arena.
“We know it’s not going to be an easy weekend. At the beginning of the season we identified the Kingdom Stars and the Gauteng Jaguars as our biggest competition. My players have worked really hard this week and they know they’re going to have to work hard on court for every single goal,” said Lucas.
Despite coming away with a full haul of points from Round 1, Lucas says there were a number of areas she believes they can improve upon and have worked hard on this week.
“Our goal shooters spent a lot of time under the net this week. Our goal average wasn’t at the level we want it to be in Round 1 and I’ve got full faith that they’ll be in top form this weekend.
“I felt we underperformed in Round 1, not because I want to take anything away from our players who I think did very well. But rather because the calibre of players that we have means I know they can perform so much better. But we have a new team and when that relationship between the players and combinations falls into place then we’ll really see the potential of this team.
“The players are patient as well, and as a coaching staff we’re not just expecting this to happen immediately. We’re focused on building to the finals, so I’m confident the team can only improve as we go along.”
Looking at their competition this weekend, Lucas says she’s done her homework and is keen to see how her players respond to the challenge.
“Obviously we know the Stars’ goalkeeper Phumza Maweni quite well as she used to be a Stings player. So I know which goal shooters I can play against her to unsettle her a bit. The Stars also have tremendous speed, but I think we can match this.
“The Jaguars have a lot of length in the goal circle, so that’s a totally different gameplan in terms of our defensive strategy.”
And it’s a challenge Lucas herself is relishing in what is her first season as head coach of the Stings.
“I’m thoroughly enjoying the challenge. You’ve got to keep raising your game as a coach in the Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League because it’s played at such a high intensity. But the players know me well because many of them have been with me in the provincial team, so we’re very comfortable as a team.
“I’m pleased with our start, but we know it’s going to be hard work to stay there. We need to work hard every weekend to stay on top of our game.”
Round 2 begins on Friday evening with the first match between the Sunbirds and the Flames followed by the match between the Kingdom Stars and Fireballs.
Fixtures (Heartfelt Arena, Pretoria):
18:00 – Sunbirds v Flames
20:00 – Kingdom Stars v Fireballs
12:00 – Southern Stings v Kingdom Stars
14:00 – Aloes v Sunbirds
16:00 – Jaguars v Diamonds
18:00 – Flames v Crinums
10:30 – Diamonds v Baobabs
12:30 – Southern Stings v Jaguars