The next three weeks are set to be crucial in determining the pecking order in each area of the court for the Silver Ferns.

The Ferns' international season gets underway this weekend with their Quad Series opener against South Africa in Brisbane. The New Zealand side will then return home for fixtures against England and Australia, before meeting the touring English side in another three-test series.

Ferns coach Janine Southby will make a couple of change-ups to her test side in between each series, with all 16 members of her squad included in at least one of the two events. Southby said with the Commonwealth Games just around the corner, she is conscious of the need to give players the opportunity to show what they can do.

"It is important that we know where the players are at," said Southby.


"Any of the 16 that are in the squad and the development squad below that could at any time over the next couple of months be expected to get out there and you want them to know that they can do it too.

"Where possible we will be putting players out there, but we have to be mindful that we're not throwing players on willy-nilly and disrupting combinations and connections."

Athletic defender Phoenix Karaka, shooter Maia Wilson, and midcourters Sam Sinclair and Whitney Souness, who is in line to make her international debut against South Africa on Saturday, are the group under the most immediate pressure to perform over the Quad Series. The trio will be replaced by Monica Falkner, Temalisi Fakahokotau, Kayla Cullen, who is still working her way back from minor knee surgery, and Grace Rasmussen for the Taini Jamison series against England next month.

After those six matches, the New Zealand selectors will name their test side for the Constellation Cup against key rivals Australia, which should provide a good indication of the group of players they see taking them through to the Commonwealth Games in April.

New Zealand skipper Katrina Grant said the players are all aware of the importance of the upcoming matches, and she hopes that urgency will show out on court.

"Everyone is fighting for positions going into Constellation Cup, so everyone has to put their best foot forward," she said.

"With trials and then camp last week and various cluster sessions, you can definitely see how hungry everyone is. The girls have all been working really hard. We've had plenty of preparation time together now compared to what we've had in the past and I think we're all feeling pretty sharp, so hopefully that will give us that edge we need."

Grant hopes kicking off the Quad Series against South Africa will allow them to build into the series, with the eventual goal of taking down Australia in their final match-up in Invercargill next weekend.

"In January for Quad Series we played Aussie first up and it kind of put a bit of a downer on the rest of the tour that we lost that one first up. So we want to start really strongly against South Africa - they've improved a lot over the last 18 months or so and they have shown they can keep up with us for halves or even three quarters of the game, and with Norma [Plummer, the former Australian coach] in there she's going to be wanting to get them the whole way there."