The Gauteng Jaguars were given a scare but rebounded to beat the North West Flames 54-47 in the second round of the Telkom Netball League in Pretoria on Saturday.

The two-time defending champions were coming off a thrilling two-goal victory over the Free State Crinums on Friday and looked unsettled at the start of their second game of the weekend against the Flames.

They found themselves in unfamiliar territory when they fell three goals behind at one stage against the team they comfortably beat by 11 goals in the first round. But they soon righted themselves and after being 15-all at the first break, reached half time 32-25 ahead.

That would all change again in the third period, however, as eight unanswered goals from the Flames saw them quickly closing the gap and then even sneaking ahead. It was almost seven minutes before the Jaguars scored a goal, but once they did, they got to work regaining their lead. With the Flames squandering some golden opportunities, the Gauteng team were able to restore their dominance, reaching the final break 41-35 up.

Another strong start from the Flames saw them closing the gap once again, but not all the way, eventually allowing the Jaguars to surge ahead again in the dying minutes and win by seven goals this time.

Meanwhile, in a clash between two of the invitational teams, which was effectively a World Cup warm-up match, the SPAR Smileys beat Zimbabwe 50-41. The Zimbabweans are headed to the global tournament for the first time in July and used the match against the side made up chiefly of SA-based Proteas players as vital preparation.

It was by far the tightest contest the Spar Smileys have encountered so far at the Telkom Netball League with the scores neck and neck in the first quarter. The South Africans managed to edge ahead before their neighbours came back at them to level matters at 8-8. But the home team managed to get ahead again to reach the first break 14-11 ahead. There were only two goals in it by half time, which they reached on 23-21, and there was more of a doing-dong battle in the third period.

The visitors pulled themselves level again at the start of the third at 23-all, thanks to an impressive defensive effort, and then took the lead for the first time at 24-23. The lead exchanged hands several time in the quarter but the teams were all square on 33-all at the break.

The start of the final period, saw some errors creeping in for the Zimbabweans, while more accurate shooting from the home side meant they could edge ahead. With five minutes to go, the Smileys were five goals up and with the momentum going their way, they managed to stretch that lead to a somewhat flattering nine goals after a tough tussle throughout.

Speaking afterwards about what changed in the final quarter, Smileys coach Dorette Badenhorst explained: “I think the problem is we’re losing too many of our centre passes. I said to my players, we need to keep possession, we need to stand strong. There was also better communication on defence, working together and not playing alone.”

The coach added that such a tough encounter was good for the team and helpful for national coach Norma Plummer to finalise her World Cup team.

“If you look at the selection that still needs to come for Norma, I think it was a great game to make those last decisions, especially in the centre court and we tried to play different combinations we haven’t played yet. They’re tough, very physical and that’s what we’re going to get in international netball and we need to adapt and play good netball and keep possession.”

Earlier in the day, the Free State Crinums put in a dominant performance to beat the Gauteng Golden Fireballs 66-42.

It was a tight start to the match, with both teams looking to find their rhythm. But the Crinums started pulling away towards the end of the first quarter, reaching the break 16-8 up, and they didn’t look back.

Captain Lefébre Rademan was once again spot on at goal attack, while goalkeeper Ané Retief excelled in defence. The Fireballs eventually managed to stem the flow of goals and made some good attacks of their own to draw the third quarter at 14 goals each, meaning the teams headed into the final period on 49-32.

The Crinums then came out firing in the last quarter forcing numerous turnovers and scoring a quick eight unanswered goals.

Crinums coach Burta de Kock paid tribute to her young team. “I’m so happy because we had four 18-year-old babies on court and they are such a brilliant, awesome investment in netball in South Africa,” she said.

“I’m so glad that we could introduce them today – to explore and give them experience so I am very happy. They did very well and the senior players stepped up and carried them through it.”

Meanwhile, in the second division clash between the Aloes and the Mpumalanga Sunbirds it was the Eastern Cape side that maintained their unbeaten record in the tournament so far. The Aloes led throughout the game and finally emerged 46-38 winners.

In other second division action, the KwaZulu-Natal Kingdom Stars proved they’ll be providing the Aloes with some tough competition at the top of the table by also remaining unbeaten. They outshone the Northern Cape Diamonds 68-33 to notch up the same record of three wins and one draw.

Telkom Netball League

Results – 18 May 2019 – Round 2

Division 1

Free State Crinums beat Gauteng Golden Fireballs 66-42

Gauteng Jaguars beat North West Flames 54-47

Division 2

Eastern Cape Aloes beat Mpumalanga Sunbirds 46-38

KwaZulu-Natal Kingdom Stars beat Northern Cape Diamonds 68-33

Invitational

SPAR Smileys beat Zimbabwe 50-41

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