The SPAR Proteas continued their unbeaten run at the Diamond Challenge netball tournament in Polokwane on Friday with a 57-36 win over Zambia.
But it was their least composed performance of the tournament so far.
The first quarter clearly belonged to the home side with the Proteas scoring two goals for every one going Zambia’s way, and reaching the break 18-9 up.
It was close to three minutes before the first goal was scored in the second quarter and that was perhaps a sign of things to come for the South Africans, who were made to work hard to get the ball into their circle. If it hadn’t been for their pinpoint shooting (97 per cent compared to Zambia’s 75 by half time), the Proteas could well have lost the quarter. As it turned out they won it by just one goal to reach the second break 28-18 up.
There were a host of changes in the third quarter, with Shadine van der Merwe coming on at goal defence, Erin Burger at centre, Romé Dreyer at wing attack and Sigi Burger at goal shooter, with Lenize Potgieter moving to goal attack. But the SA side continued to look flustered at times, making uncharacteristic errors. They managed to compose themselves enough to open up a bit more of a gap by the end of the third quarter, which they reached on 41-27.
Towards the end of the final quarter the South Africans had managed to take control once again, but it was a brave performance from the tenacious Zambians, who conceded their least amount of goals in a match against the Proteas to date.
“They definitely brought the fight to us today,” said SPAR Proteas captain Bongi Msomi afterwards. “It was what we expected to be honest. We knew they could play and would come hard at us and we were really tested.
“I think it was great for us to get a game like this – to get a bit of frustration here and there but then we picked it up again somewhere, somehow. I feel this was really great practice and it’s always good to come up with a win,” added the captain, who also admitted to a few concerns.
“It feels good but one has to be worried about how you perform on the court, and I am a little bit dissatisfied with what we put on court today. Obviously we know how much we expect from each other and we know we need to go back and reflect and then come back tomorrow and finish off strong.”
The South Africans will be up against Zimbabwe in their final match on Saturday. The hosts remain the only unbeaten team in the tournament and on course to defend their title.
Meanwhile, earlier in the day, Botswana claimed their first victory of the tournament by beating Namibia 55-48. They had built a four-goal lead by the end of the first quarter and continued to dominate from there.
“It’s amazing, especially looking at the fact that we worked so hard. We never gave up and finally being rewarded for that is awesome,” said Botswana captain Tumisang Bagidi afterwards.
“I want to believe our possession was much better this time around. We managed to hold on to most of our turnovers and actually convert them,” she added.
“This tournament had given us a lot of experience and we got a lot of insight into things we weren’t really aware of. We’ve actually got a useful team and it’s a good thing to have this exposure to be able to think broad so we’re very grateful for this tournament and we’ve got a lot from it to take back home.
Saturday’s matches have all be moved have all been moved three hours earlier than previously scheduled. This decision was taken in order to finish all games before the start of Banyana Banyana’s Africa Women Cup of Nations final against Nigeria, which is due to kick off at 6pm.
Organisers felt it was of great importance for the SA netball community to give their full backing to their football sisters as they vie for continental glory.
The updated schedule for the Diamond League matches for Saturday, 1 December is as follows:
12pm: Botswana v SA President’s XII
2pm: Zambia v Namibia
4pm: South Africa v Zimbabwe