Fresh faces in the Silver Ferns have added a whole new set of challenges for England as they prepare for Saturday’s netball World Cup semi-final at Sydney’s Olympic Park.
England were untroubled in beating South Africa 62-46 in their final qualification match on Friday, coach Tracey Neville managing to give court time to all but one of her 12-strong squad.
New Zealand were even more convincing in dispatching world No.14 Uganda 76-33, maintaining their record as the only unbeaten team of the 16-nation tournament.
England skipper Geva Mentor says the world No.2 Silver Ferns came into the World Cup as a bit of an unknown quantity, with a new-look shooting circle and a high-octane, aerial style of play.
“I think they come into this competition as underdogs, but they’ve really proven themselves, taking it to Australia and beating them,” Mentor said.
“It’s definitely a different line-up in that attack end, with much more of a moving combination. We’re going to have our work cut out in defence.”
Mentor said the world No.3-ranked English, who lost by 10 to Australia in pool play, would need a concerted team effort on defence to turnover enough ball to shake the Silver Ferns’ possession-based game.
Midcourter Jade Clarke said England will have to adjust quickly to New Zealand’s trademark zone defence, especially after the more man-on style used by defending champions Australia.
“You’ve got to have structures through the court, and we’ve got to have a game plan in order to get the ball off them, because they’re very good at keeping possession,” she said.
“But the main difference is they’ve brought in some fresh faces – Bailey Mes brings that more moving game, so she’s a real threat out there.
“We’ve got to have that full-court pressure.”
With many of the English team playing in the trans-Tasman league, there was no shortage of information, and Clarke said they were taking something of a collaborative approach to settling on tactics.
“We’re bringing together all our knowledge, and making sure we’ve got a strong plan, get out there and really stick to it.
“And if that’s not working, then we’ve got plans A, B, C and D.”