sports gazette

New Zealand's Maria Tutaia on the challenge posed by South Africa

Published: 5 Feb 2017

New Zealand stormed to a comfortable 61-37 victory over England in Liverpool - home of the 2019 Netball World Cup - on Thursday.

The world number two team oozed class and quality in the shooting circle as well as successfully using a high press to keep the Roses at bay.

They now face South Africa, who have developed tremendously over the last few years, at the SSE Arena on Sunday and Silver Ferns' goal attack, Maria Tutaia, spoke exclusively to Sports Gazette about the challenge ahead.

Tutaia said: "South Africa, especially under Norma Plummer, are really dangerous ​at the moment.

"We're definitely not going to take them lightly, so we'll see. ​

"As long as we stick to our structures we'll be fine."

After a disappointing opening game defeat to world champions Australia, the turnaround in performance on Thursday thrilled Tutaia.

But, without giving anything away, she admitted that there were still areas of their game to work on.

Tutaia said: "There were heaps of pluses; a few minuses - I reckon it was a massive improvement from​ Australia. I wish we were playing Australia on Sunday!

"This is a new group ​and so ​we were trying a few new combinations.

"So, a lot ​of pluses but so much more to work on."

Another positive for the Silver Ferns was their 166th player in history taking to court.

Tutaia said: "We got Kelly Jury out - a ​debutant. Moments like that you can't describe."

The defender came on in the final quarter to realise her dream of wearing the Black Dress.

Jury was roommates with Tutaia during the South Africa leg of the Quad Series and joked to the official New Zealand netball website that she faced an additional pressure: doing the goal attack's hair!

Tutaia, with her hair perfectly in place, will be looking to build upon her strong performances so far when the competition arrives in London.

The game will be broadcast on both BBC2 and Sky Sports Mix so there's no excuse to miss out on watching the world's best go head-to-head!

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