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Silver Ferns primed for Jamaican challenge

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 10/09/2016 Cathy Walshe

The Silver Ferns at their last game against England © Getty images The Silver Ferns at their last game against England Jamaica might be missing some tall timber at the sharp end of the court, but they still pose a real challenge for the Silver Ferns, assistant coach Yvette McCausland-Durie believes.

The Sunshine Girls are without sharpshooting twin towers Romelda Aiken and Jhaniele Fowler-Reid going into the three-Test netball series against New Zealand which begins in Nelson on Sunday.

But McCausland-Durie expects no drop in intensity from the world No.4 Jamaicans, and says the Ferns will be punished if they deliver anything below their best.

"One of their significant strengths has been that height at the back," she told NZ Newswire.

"They haven't brought as much, but they've got really good mobility on attack, and they're hugely patient."

She says Jamaica also present a different defensive challenge, mixing a strong one-on-one game with the ability to mark space off the player and the speed to steal intercept ball.

"They're very athletic, so they can attack the ball and there's a risk if you get the ball too high, they'll take it pretty easy."

McCausland-Durie says while the Jamaicans can be unpredictable, that doesn't make them any less effective.

"It's just different - they'll use a lot more cross-court ball and go backwards, whereas our idea is always go there as quick as you can and score. It's just a different philosophy."

The Silver Ferns have embarked on a steep learning curve over the past few weeks, masterminded by the new coaching combination of Janine Southby and McCausland-Durie.

They managed some encouraging results in the recent Quad Series, despite the absence of experienced players Maria Tutaia and Anna Harrison (both injured), and long-serving skipper Casey Kopua, who is taking time out following the birth of her first child.

Wins over South Africa and England were followed by a 55-60 loss to Australia in Melbourne last Sunday, a game the Kiwis led 53-52 with less than five minutes remaining.

The lesson from that, McCausland-Durie says, is simple and will be taken into Sunday's opening Test at Nelson's Trafalgar Centre.

"We learned we have the ability, and that's huge.

"We're now confident that we can take on the competition, Australia or anyone else, but we've got to push all the way through and keep playing until the very end."

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