The Kingdom Stars made sure of a place in the quarterfinals of the Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League (NPL) with a comprehensive 52-20 victory over the Northern Cape Diamonds at the Ellis Park Indoor Arena on Friday night.
The Stars, jam-packed with Proteas, did an outstanding job of keeping the ball out of the Diamonds’ circle, and the most the Diamonds were able to score in a quarter was seven goals in the second. At halftime, the Stars had a lead of 24-12. The Diamonds fell apart in the third quarter and could manage only two goals, against 14 for the Stars. They made a number of unforced errors and their handling of the ball let them down. They came back in the final quarter, scoring six goals, but the Stars once again scored 14.
Player of the match, Stars wing attack Luleka Ndyibithi said the Stars had been able to follow what they had practiced in training.
“It wasn’t easy, but we trusted each other and that was why it worked,” she said.
Stars coach Marchelle Maroun said they had achieved their initial goal, which was to reach the top six in the tournament.
“We worked hard during the week at tidying up our passing and going back to basics,” she said.
“I am disappointed that we didn’t win any of our matches against the former A-section teams, but we certainly closed the gap.”
Diamonds coach Elsje van der Merwe said she thought her team had played reasonably well, considering they had had a seven hour bus journey from Kimberley, and very little time to recover.
“We also had a lot of injuries this week, with two players off with ankle injuries and one who burnt her hands with cooking oil. So I think they did quite well in the circumstances,” she said.
The Southern Cape Stings, who have been one of the form teams in the NPL, beat the Mpumalanga Sunbirds by 55 goals to 28. The Stings are vying with the Gauteng Jaguars for one of the semifinal places kept aside for the top two teams and should know their fate after their match against the Free State Crinums on Saturday.
The Sunbirds had a nervous start, and the Stings took a decisive 22-6 lead in the first quarter. However, the Sunbirds found their feet in the second quarter, which they lost 13-8. They managed to tie the third quarter, at eight goals each. The Stings won the final quarter 12-6. Their defenders achieved a number of good rebounds and intercepts and the Stings did not have everything their own way.
Sunbirds coach Jenne-Lee Delport was delighted with her team’s performance.
“The last time we played the Stings, we lost by 55 goals,” she said.
“Our target today was to stop the Stings from reaching 60 goals, and to finish within 30 goals of them. We achieved both of these, so it was high fives all round. Our last game is on Sunday, against the Crinums, who are the defending champions, and we are looking forward to that. We aim to meet our targets there too.”
Stings coach Annelie Lucas said she had played her senior players to get them match ready for their crucial game against the Crinums on Saturday.
“We would like to win tomorrow, but we are pretty confident that we will get through to the semis on goal difference,” she said.
“I made some changes in the second half, and tried out new combinations, for instance, putting Adele Niemand at wing defence, and I’m pleased with the way they worked.”
Player of the match, centre Erin Burger, who moved to the Stings this year from the Jaguars, said she was enjoying playing for her new team.
“I am used to having very tall shooters, and we don’t have that at the Stings, so I have to adapt my play, and that is making me a better player,” she said.
“I enjoyed this game and the Sunbirds played better than the scoreline suggests.”