T&T’s “Calypso Girls,” led by captain Rhonda John-Davis, will be eager for a winning start when they come up against South Africa in their Pool C opener in the 16-team Vitality Netball World Cup at the M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool, England, from 12.30 pm Friday.
Netball is this country’s most successful international team sport and T&T has a long history of appearances at the World Cup, having played at 13 of the 14 tournaments to date. T&T is also the only other nation besides Australia and New Zealand to be crowned World Netball Champions, having tied for first place with New Zealand and Australia in 1979.
On a personal note, John-Davis will set a world record for the number of World Cup appearances when she steps on the court in Liverpool. The wing-attack has played at five World Cups to date – 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015, making Liverpool her sixth.
In addition to John-Davis, Australian-based Samantha Wallace, England-based England Kalifa Mc Collin, Ornella Jack-Hill, Candice Guerero and Daystar Swift are members of the team, which is ranked tenth, with previous World Cup experience and they will be expected to carry most of the workload by coach by coach Wesley “Pepe” Gomes.
However, Gomes, who will be seeking to lead T&T to its first podium finish since a joint second-spot with Australia in Glasgow in 1987, will be a bit concerned by his team’s lacklustre displays in its three warm-up matches during the just concluded Wales Summer Test Series in Cardiff. During the series, T&T drew with eighth-ranked Northern Ireland 49-all; went under to the 12th-ranked Wales 72-64 and lost to Malawi 53-52.
The South African unit, on the other hand, featuring no fewer than six Australian-based players, stormed to two resounding wins over Wales 84-32 and 79-44. Making its eighth World Cup appearance overall, with a best finish of second place behind Australia in 1995, South Africa qualified automatically for this year’s event as one of the top five teams in the world.
They are led by wing-attack Bongiwe Pretty Msomi, who will be playing in her third World Cup, while their star player is goal-attack Lenize Potgieter.
It will not get any easier for the “Calypso Girls” as the World Cup progresses either, as they will next face second-ranked Jamaica on Saturday before meeting 17th-ranked Fiji on Sunday.
Four years ago, T&T finished third in Pool A with one solitary victory over Barbados and ended up finishing ninth overall in Sydney.
Group A comprises winners of the last three editions and 11-time champion Australia, Northern Ireland (No 8), Zimbabwe (No 13) and Sri Lanka (No 18); Group B features four-time winners New Zealand (No 4), Malawi (No 9), Barbados (No 11) and Singapore (No 26) and Group D consists of reigning Commonwealth Games champion and world number three England, Uganda (No 6), Scotland (No 7) and Samoa (No 14).
At the end of the round-robin stage, the top three teams in each group will advance to the second preliminary round. The top three teams from Groups A and B will form Group F while the top three teams in C and D will comprise Group G.
T&T: Aniecia Baptiste, Candice Guerero, Daystar Swift, Jameela Mc Carthy, Kalifa Mc Collin, Onella Jack Hill, Samantha Wallace, Shantel Seemungal, Shaquanda Greene, Shernice Seemungal, Tahirah Hollingsworth, Rhonda John-Davis (captain).
South Africa: Bongiwe Pretty Msomi, Erin Burger, Ine-Marie Venter, Izette Griesel, Karla Pretorius, Khanyisa Chawane, Lenize Potgieter, Maryka Holtzhausen, Phumza Charmaine Maweni, Renske Stoltz, Shadine Van Der Merwe, Zanele Vuyiswa.
Venue: M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool, England
Australia v Northern Ireland, 6 am
Zimbabwe v Sri Lanka, 6.25 am
Jamaica v Fiji, 12 noon
South Africa v T&T, 12.25 pm
England vs Uganda, 2 pm
Scotland vs Samoa, 2.25 pm