The SPAR Proteas sealed the defence of their Diamond Challenge netball tournament title in style on Saturday with a 73-44 victory over Zimbabwe at the Ngoako Ramatlhodi Sports Complex in Polokwane.
The win made it five out of five for the home side, who have dominated the tournament from start to finish. Despite being given a tough challenge by Zambia on Friday and Zimbabwe on Saturday, the South Africans have managed to win all their matches by more than 20 goals,
In Saturday’s encounter Zimbabwe fought hard from the start and put up some decent defence, but the Proteas still managed to notch up a 17-9 lead by the end of the first quarter,
The Zim defence stood solid throughout the game, but mistakes started creeping into their midcourt play, meaning the turnover count kept rising. That was also thanks to an outstanding performance by Proteas goal defence Karla Pretorious.
Half time was reached on 34-18 after a repeat of the first quarter scores and while the third period was a far closer one (17 goals to 15) the Proteas ran away with it in the final 15 minutes. They earned turnovers with regularity and were too quick on the counterattack for the Zimbabweans, meaning they could open up the winning margin to 29 goals.
“It’s such a good feeling. I think the scoreline doesn’t really mean much. What’s means much is what we put on court today,” said SA captain Bongi Msomi, who was later named Player of the Tournament.
“Yesterday we weren’t satisfied with what we did so today the plan was to go out hard and implement our strategies. It’s been really amazing. As usual, there’s always room to grow but this was a great performance. I’m really proud of the girls,” added Msomi.
Summing up the tournament, SPAR Proteas coach Norma Plummer added: “I put the girls under a lot of pressure because I was introducing different strategies and tactics for them and I wanted them to implement them on court.
“Some of it came off really well, some of it they struggled a bit. I’m trying to make them self-sufficient in the pressure situations and I’m satisfied where they are now ahead of the Quad Series, where the games will be five times more difficult.”
Meanwhile, earlier in the day, the SA President’s XII, claimed a 58-35 victory over Botswana to finish the tournament with four wins in five matches.
Botswana’s confidence levels had clearly been boosted by their first win on Friday – against Namibia – and they came out firing. Both the first and second quarters were tighter than the South Africans had probably anticipated. The first finished on 13-9, and after both teams scored 13 and nine goals again in the second quarter, half time was reached on 26-18.
Botswana looked to be letting it get away from them a bit it in the third quarter, but they held on to keep the margin to 13 goals on 40-27 by the final break.
By the fourth quarter the intensity from Botswana had flagged somewhat, and some key changes saw the President’s XII finding their groove to open up a significant gap and finish the game well ahead.
“I think we had a bit of a shaky start but the girls brought it together. It’s just fatigue that’s setting in – it’s been quite a long week for all of us,” admitted SA President’s XII captain Jessica Khomo afterwards.
“I think Botswana gelled well throughout the whole week and they were much more confident. I think it was one of the best performances they’ve put up here so they really came out strong today.”
Khomo said, given the taste of international exposure, her players were more determined than ever to make it into the senior national side.
“The girls have been phenomenal the whole week. I’ve just been saying what an honour it’s been to captain them. They’re really motivated. Everybody is there for one another. The confidence is there and the girls definitely want to make it into the Proteas team in the future,” she added.
In the day’s other match, Zambia claimed their third win of the tournament with a 68-36 victory over Namibia’s Desert Jewels, who will head home without having tasted success in Polokwane. As a result, the Zambians finished in second spot in the tournament, with Zimbabwe taking the bronze medal.