Young Silver Ferns get shot against Proteas
The fine balance of winning and building squad depth has already proved a tough act for the Silver Ferns in the Quad Series and the second string players are set to get a further chance to stake their claims tonight.
While the frontline players rescued New Zealand in the second half of Thursday's contest against England, there are doubts over the international credibility of others in the group.
Against South Africa in Mt Maunganui tonight, those players can prove a point to a lot of people, though the Proteas should be a pushover for the Ferns anyway.
In round one they were brushed aside 63-27, then they suffered two 32-goal defeats to Australia, before leading England at halftime but eventually being run down 62-53.
"I think they start very well," Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu said. "I think they probably have some conditioning issues in the sense of the intensity of the games they're playing and their ability to stay in for 60 minutes.
"And, it's not surprising really, given that the whole intensity is new to them and that they don't get to spend a lot of time together."
To have a chance at winning the series, the Ferns need to be as ruthless as possible tonight to improve their goal percentage.
Their main work-on has been their through-court attack, with some more slickness required, according to wing attack Camilla Lees, who returned to the fray in the last match after missing the Australian leg of the series to complete her medical studies.
Lees was guilty of coughing up plenty of ball against England and she admitted rustiness was perhaps a factor, but also acknowledged the difficulty of adjusting to a new shooting combination in Cathrine Latu and Jodi Brown.
"It was a bit of a slow start. It took me a while to get into it and I think I made some silly errors that I want to cut out in the next game," she said.
Lees is hoping to deliver the ball with more accuracy and greater confidence tonight, and said there was an adjustment needed depending on who was under the hoop.
"I think most of the shooters have quite different styles of play and when you're trying to read the game you've got to kind of know what each shooter likes and how they're going to present to the ball. So I think it just takes a while to learn those links.
"I think just the timing's slightly different. Catty's [Latu] got a really good hold on her which we haven't really been utilising well. And I think it's just being able to read her body position a bit better."
Lees, 23, has played just seven tests but with the lack of midcourt stocks, has a superb chance to cement the wing attack position.
"I feel like I'm growing in that position each time I play and working well with the others around me, so absolutely, that's my aim," she said.
Taumaunu felt Lees started slow against England but built into the match and began to play like she did in the Constellation Cup alongside Laura Langman, who Lees is loving having by her side.
"She's such a workhorse and she's always able to run up and down the court without seeming to get tired, so she's fantastic to play with," Lees said. "And I feel as though our combination is building as well, which is great."
Sunday Star Times