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Ferns brace for life without Langman

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 26/01/2017 Daniel Gilhooly
Laura Langman looks to pass for the Swifts during the ANZ Championship Semi Final match between the Magic and the Swifts at Claudelands Arena on July 25, 2016 in Hamilton, New Zealand. © Fiona Goodall/Getty Images Laura Langman looks to pass for the Swifts during the ANZ Championship Semi Final match between the Magic and the Swifts at Claudelands Arena on July 25, 2016 in Hamilton, New Zealand.

Life without Laura Langman begins for the Silver Ferns in the unfamiliar surrounds of Durban and smack bang in the middle of their usual off-season.

More alarmingly, it comes against Australia.

New Zealand will play a netball Test without the midcourt general for the first time in nearly 13 years when they face the Diamonds in the first round of the Quad Series on Sunday morning (NZT).

Coach Janine Southby described the challenge of getting her team up to speed as "enormous", notwithstanding the fact one of netball's greatest players won't be there.

Langman, who made her debut in 2004 and played 141 successive Tests, is ineligible under the rules of Netball NZ, which won't allow selection of players involved in the newly-formed Australian league, where the 30-year-old has linked with the Sunshine Coast Lightning.

Southby says replacing Langman was one of countless challenges on her plate after the squad touched down in South Africa at the weekend.

And it's among the toughest.

"It's certainly different for us, Laura brought so much experience and expertise," Southby told NZ Newswire.

"Anyone of her experience and calibre, we're always going to miss.

"But it's an opportunity to grow some players around it, put them into a leadership role and ask them to take more responsibility."

Among those to noticeably step up was Southern Steel centre Shannon Francois, who has logged 30 Tests alongside Langman.

Francois has accepted the challenge of playing with more authority, Southby said.

"Shannon's been in a leadership role at the Steel so she's done a bit of groundwork.

"She's definitely talking a lot more now with us and taking responsibility in different areas. It's really good to see."

With no injuries to report, New Zealand should field a settled attacking end, with wing attack Grace Rasmussen feeding shooters Bailey Mes and Maria Tutaia.

Captain Katrina Grant is likely to be joined in the defensive circle by Jane Watson, with Anna Harrison a chance to play wing defence in the absence of the injured Kayla Cullen.

Southby says wing defence has emerged as a problem area in New Zealand and hopes depth can be built this year.

The players worked on fitness for about two weeks with their franchises in early January, leaving Southby to gradually get them gelling without overdoing it after a long flight.

She has focused on the basics and teamwork, conscious that Australia are in the same boat in terms of preparedness.

"On a limited time frame, you've got to be really clear on what you want to work on.

"The reality is that we've only got a handful of trainings."

The trans-Tasman Test is followed immediately by a clash between South Africa and England.

New Zealand then head to the UK for the rest of the Quad Series for fixtures against England in Liverpool and South Africa in London.

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