Liverpool, United Kingdom: The SPAR Proteas fell short of a podium bronze medal finish at the 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup in Liverpool on Sunday after losing to the Vitality Roses 42-58. A hard-fought battle on court ended in England’s favour who finished third to win a bronze ahead of South Africa.

For the second time in three days, the fans at M&S Bank Arena got treated to another match dubbed “Battle of the flowers” as the Vitality Roses took on the SPAR Proteas for a bronze medal playoff after both teams lost their semi-final matches against Australia and New Zealand respectively.

South Africa’s head coach Norma Plummer and her Aussie assistant Nicole Cusack both sat on the bench for their 50th game for the team and both have indicated they will be stepping down as the head and assistant coaches of the SPAR Proteas.

Khanyisa Chawane who had come off the bench in the last two games got to start this time around in the place of Shadine van der Merwe.

The SPAR Proteas who had everything to play for in this game got off a lightning start converting three chances in the shortest space of time.  The capacity crowds (8000) as expected were cheering behind the home team and this worked well in their favour.

England were able to come back from a two-point deficit at the seventh minute of the first quarter to leading 14 -12 at end of that quarter. The Roses defence seemed to have been well orchestrated to prevent South Africa’s Lenize Potgieter from getting anywhere closer to the pole.

Both teams were quick to get off the blocks at the start of the second quarter and the confidence of the England players was the difference maker, they easily took their chances and converted them. South Africa on the other hand seemed to be too cautious, they lost possession a lot in the process. English goal shooter Helen Housby was devastatingly accurate in her shooting and was complimented by inform team mate Joanne Harten on goal attack. At the end of the second quarter, it was England who went into the half time break leading 29 -22.

SPAR Proteas head coach made one change at the half time break and brought on the experienced Shadine van der Merwe in the place of Chawane. As per the last match, England’s Joanne Harten seemed to have been enjoying herself and taking long range shots and converting them so well, and her wing defence Jade Clarke was also intercepting South Africa’s most important passes.

The Roses extended their lead to 46 – 32 at the end the third quarter and seemed to be frustrating their South African counterparts. Chawane made her way back into the court at the start of the fourth quarter with Erin Burger making way for her. She immediately got into the thick of things making all most important passes in the middle of the court.  However the agility and speed of the Roses really worked in their favour.

Possession turnover was a problem for the Proteas and England capitalised on the two-point swing because every time the Proteas lost possession; England scored. The Vitality Roses took control of the game and ran away with it to win 58 – 42 against the Proteas.

“We are sad that we could not win the medal as we had hoped and planned, it was a tough game and always tricky to face the same team twice in a space of three days. I think England put up a great fight, they came at us very strongly and made it count when it mattered the most. It was a tough game. As a team we have grown and developed, take nothing away from this team. When you look at where we started to where we are today; I think we are better team and better players. On behalf of the team we wish Ma (coach Norma) everything of the best, we would like to keep her forever though,” said SPAR Proteas captain Bongiwe Msomi.

The two teams went off at each other the same way they did on Friday, the scores were almost similar with England winning 58 -47. What was also similar about this game is that both coaches sat in on their respective benches for the very last time in charge of their respective teams.

“It would be an understatement to say that I am not sad with the fact that we didn’t beat England, however at the same time I am super proud of the girls, they gave it their all on the court. Granted we made a few mistakes, second guessed ourselves at time but we played better. I can never fault anyone here; England came out on tops and for that we congratulate them. I am proud of this team; I am proud of the journey travelled with all of them and the players that they have become over time. I think we have done better in this world cup as a team, finishing top four is not a thing to take lightly and I am telling them now to walk out there with their heads held up high, they have done the unthinkable and put their name in the history books, said Norma Plummer, SPAR Proteas head coach.

Plummer concluded by thanking Netball South Africa, “to Cecilia (Molokwane), the President of Netball South Africa, Blanche (de la Guerre) and the entire Netball South Africa Executive I just want to say, as I bow out thank you very much for the opportunity and privilege of being the SPAR Proteas coach, the honour bestowed upon me is one I never took lightly. I believe that as a collective we have done well in building this team, we are here now, I am happy to handover knowing that we have built such a solid foundation and great team.”

Norma Plummer joined the SPAR Proteas as a head coach back in 2014 and has coached and sat on the bench for 50 matches. She is stepping down as a head coach of the SPAR Proteas after the 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup.

Meanwhile New Zealand were crowned the 2019 Vitality World Cup Champions when they upset arch rivals and defending champions Australia 52-51 in the much anticipated dramatic final. The last time New Zealand won the Netball World Cup was in 2003, Australia have been champions since.

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