The Abu Dhabi Eagles are in the hunt to reclaim their Inter-Gulf Championship title that the Dubai A side claimed last year in a 14-7 victory, and say South African coach Sandra Du Plessis has helped their confidence.
South African helps Eagles ahead of Inter-Gulf Netball tournament
The Abu Dhabi Eagles hope the work of their top South African netball coach will help them avenge last year's defeat in the Inter-Gulf Championship.
Dubai A ended Abu Dhabi's two-year hold on the trophy by winning last year's final 14-7, and the sides are again expected to be the two to beat when 16 teams from the Gulf meet in Al Ain on Friday and Saturday.
The Eagles say they have an edge over teams from Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Fujairah and Al Ain after receiving expert coaching from Sandra Du Plessis, who was head coach of the University of Stellenbosch for six years and was short-listed to coach the national teams of Scotland and Singapore.
Du Plessis has been working with the team on a volunteer basis while visiting friends in the country and will leave by the end of the month.
"Sandra's enthusiasm and passion for netball coaching is one of the strongest I have ever seen," said Kellie Pomeroy, a player and chair of the Abu Dhabi league.
"Her wealth of knowledge and experience is breathtaking, and although she has only been here for a short space of time she has had such a positive impact on each person she has worked with."
De Plessis has been coaching the team since January in preparation for this tournament.
"Sandra is an exceptional coach. She not only instils new technicalities of netball but through her passion for netball it motivates each individual as a player and the players as a team," Chante De Villiers said.
"It has been a tremendous experience and honour to work with her.
"She has crawled into many of our hearts and without a doubt will be missed. We look forward in making her proud this weekend."
Keren Persen and Melanie Waugh, are the key players in the Eagles' A team, and Du Plessis is confident they can send her off on a winning note.
"I am extremely proud of everything the players have put in, as they have worked hard for two months, and we are looking forward to a great weekend of netball," Du Plessis said.
"I feel that if you believe in yourself and have dedication, pride and never quit, you'll be a winner. The price of victory is high but so are the rewards."
Abu Dhabi will be fielding three women's netball teams, with the Abu Dhabi Oryx and Abu Dhabi Ravens taking part in the competitive tournament and the social tournament, respectively.
Players were selected from teams which compete in the Abu Dhabi Netball League, in which 258 women play on a weekly basis on the purpose-built netball courts at Sheikh Zayed Sport City in Abu Dhabi.
The Inter-Gulf tournament serves to bolster the sport across the region, with the Abu Dhabi team hoping to attract Emirati and other nationalities to the sport.
There have already been a few inquiries from Emiratis about joining the seasonal league.
The UAE does not have a national team and Abu Dhabi had to decline the opportunity to take part in the World Championships in Singapore.
The issue of the national team will be raised at the next Inter-Gulf Committee meeting.