The South African national netball team is to play a three-match test series against Barbados during the SPAR Challenge in Cape Town towards the end of this month.

The series is part of Netball South Africa’s (NSA) four-year plan to prepare for the World Championships in Singapore in 2011.

After the World Championships in New Zealand last year NSA embarked on a programme to prepare for 2011 that would include playing teams ranked closer to South Africa than the big guns: Australia, New Zealand and England.

South Africa are ranked ninth and Barbados are ranked 11th. “The first thing I want to do is to reintroduce a culture of winning,” said national coach Carin Strauss shortly after her appointment in April.

“For the first two years, I’m not planning to tackle the very top countries like Australia, New Zealand and England. I would rather play against teams that are of a similar strength to us and learn how to win, before we go up against the top teams again. I don’t want us to be excited about losing by ‘just 30′ goals against a team like Australia.”

The 25-member squad will take part in a training camp in Potchefstroom this weekend to prepare for the series.

“Having the big group of players at the squad camp means that we have enough quality players to enable the team for the Barbados series to play practice matches against players who are in form,” said Strauss.

There are still as few players in the long squad who are knocking on the door of the national team, and I need to keep an eye on them as well. During the camp, we will concentrate on the detail on court, and on decision-making one aspect where South Africa is lacking.

The players will also watch video footage of the Barbados team in action during the World Championships last year.” Strauss said a 15-member team would take part in the Barbados series.

“Although only 12 can be selected for each match, all the players will be rotated to give more players a taste of international netball. Only five players from the World Championships are still in the team, so we have a good mix of youth and experience,” she said.

“We will use the series against Barbados to take stock. The new players will be tested to see if they can be competitive at international level. We will try out new combinations on defence and attack, and the series will also be valuable preparation for the Tri-Nations in Jamaica in November, where we are up against tough competition. Jamaica are ranked fourth and Trinidad and Tobago are ranked eighth.

The Tests will be played at the Good Hope Centre with the first on Wednesday October 22, the second on Friday October 24 and the final Test on Saturday October 25.