The Vitality Roses remain unbeaten at the Vitality Netball World Cup 2019 in Liverpool but their place in a home final now hinges on victory over New Zealand.
Known as the Silver Ferns, New Zealand have been engaged in a titanic tussle for international netball supremacy with the Australian Diamonds since the inaugural World Championships in 1963. They have won 90 percent of their World Cup matches in history and only Australia, England and South Africa have been able to defeat them. Ranked fourth in the world, New Zealand approached this competition in a position they are not accustomed to. For so long the challenge for them was to beat Australia and invariably they would then win the World Cup. However, they missed out on a medal for the first time at the Commonwealth Games in 2018 on the Gold Coast and have seen England and Jamaica soar past them in the World Rankings.
The Silver Ferns are among four nations to have competed at every World Cup and hosted the event in 1975, 1999 and 2007 but watched Oceanic rivals Australia lift the trophy on each occasion. As one of the top five teams in the INF World Rankings, New Zealand automatically qualified for the event and are making their 15th World Cup appearance.
Ones to Watch
Laura Langman (C, WD) –
The most capped member of a highly experienced squad, Langman is a crucial player for New Zealand and one of the best mid-court players in the world. Her ability to find space and navigate her way around the court with tremendous speed is impressive and she backs it up with precise feeds into the circle. Langman was absent from the Silver Ferns’ disappointing Commonwealth Games effort and has returned as captain to help her team up their performance levels.
Casey Kopua (GD, GK) –
An inspirational figure through her approach to the game, Kopua’s tenacity and willingness to sacrifice her body for the benefit of the team are invaluable assets. The 34-year-old was coaxed out of retirement after the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games to return to the world stage for the final time. The decision to call her up is a testament to her quality as one of the all-time greats and her work in defence is integral to any success the Kiwis could have.
Plying their trade either in the ANZ Premiership or Suncorp Super Netball, there is no Vitality Netball Superleague representation in the New Zealand squad. However, for those with memories stretching back to the last time England hosted the World Cup, Silver Ferns’ Head Coach Noeline Taurua was playing in Birmingham in 1995 along with her assistant Deb Fuller. Kiwi shooter Maria Folau also shares a dressing room with Vitality Rose Layla Guscoth at Adelaide Thunderbirds.
The Silver Ferns have seen countries such as England, Jamaica and South Africa bridge the gap of quality that once existed between them and the Kiwis. The Sunshine Girls consigned them to fourth place at the Commonwealth Games where the Vitality Roses also defeated them 54-45.
Since then the teams have battled on three occasions. England prevailed 52-39 in their encounter during the Quad Series in September, while New Zealand scored a 32-19 victory in the Fast5 Netball World Series the following month. The Vitality Netball International Series, as part of the Netball Quad Series, resumed at the start of this year and England managed a convincing 54-41 success at the Copper Box.
However, England’s World Cup record against the Silver Ferns reads 13 losses and one win.
New Zealand Squad in Full
Maria Folau, Laura Langman (c), Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Gina Crampton, Bailey Mes, Casey Kopua, Jane Watson, Shannon Saunders, Karin Burger, Phoenix Karaka, Katrina Rore, Te Paea Selby-Rickett.