Opportunity for Ferns to work on combinations

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 05:00 27/10/2012
Catherine Latu
Kevin Stent/Fairfax NZ
COMBINATIONS: Catherine Latu is likely to get plenty of game time for the Silver Ferns against South Africa.

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There will be no biting the bullet from Silver Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu.

Her New Zealand team meet South Africa in Tauranga tomorrow night, in their penultimate match of the Quad Series.

The result is a foregone conclusion, with the Silver Ferns destined to win by more than 20 goals.

For that reason, there must be a temptation to play goal shoot Cathrine Latu for the full 60 minutes.

Latu and the team's feeders need as much time together as possible, preferably with her playing in concert with Maria Tutaia.

Latu's struggles against England on Thursday night were largely caused by the direct way the Silver Ferns sought to play.

English defenders Ama Agbeze and Eboni Beckford-Chambers were rarely dragged away from the post, allowing them to double-team Latu.

Tutaia's ability to shoot from distance stretches the shooting circle appreciably and, with more one-on-one opportunities, Latu might begin to thrive.

Latu partnered Jodi Brown against England and, while the latter did attempt to launch the odd shot from wider out, there's not a goal attack in the world who can do that as well as Tutaia.

Utility Bailey Mes didn't see any court time against England and it sounds like Taumaunu will employ a similar rotation strategy tomorrow, rather than give players like Latu a full game.

The Silver Ferns end the series against Australia on Thursday and the goal is to have most of the team match-fit for that.

"So part of it will be around practice and part of it will be around resting," Taumaunu said. Which means the same job sharing routine as Thursday night, with most players getting 30 minutes in their position of choice.

At some point, if Taumaunu truly wants to build the depth she desires, she might have to cop a loss or two in the long-term interest. For now, she seems content to half do that and then go back to the big guns when things look a bit grim.

But, including Thursday night, the Silver Ferns will meet Australia just five times between now and the 2014 Commonwealth Games and defeats in a few of those might not be such a bad thing, if it gives her more options come Glasgow.

The choice of who starts wing defence against South Africa and Australia will be interesting, for instance. Previously the domain of Joline Henry, her pregnancy has resulted in Anna Harrison pushing out of the defensive circle and into that position.

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Harrison is a scrapper and a warrior, but such was the impression that second half-replacement Kayla Cullen made there against England that it cannot be long until she becomes a first-choice option.

"She brings the ball through [court] beautifully, she's got great power through the middle and I thought her defensive game as a wing D was vastly improved," Taumaunu said of Cullen, after the England match.

Australia meet England in tomorrow night's curtain-raiser.

What: Quad Series, round five Who: New Zealand v South Africa

Where and when: TECT Arena, Tauranga. Sky Sport 1, 7.50pm tomorrow

New Zealand: (from) Katrina Grant, Casey Williams (c), Anna Harrison, Laura Langman, Camilla Lees, Maria Tutaia, Irene van Dyk, Leana de Bruin, Kayla Cullen, Bailey Mes, Jodi Brown, Cathrine Latu

South Africa: (from) Adele Niemand, Karla Mostert, Zanele Mdodana, Nokuthula Qegu, Bongiwe Msomi, Maryka Holtzhausen, Christina Bootha, Amanda Mynhardt, Vanes-mari du Toit, Melissa Myburgh, Nadia Uys 

- Wellington

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