The SPAR SANZEA Netball Quad Series ended on a disappointing note for the SPAR Proteas, who went down 52-47 to the England Roses at the Ellis Park Indoor Arena on Sunday.
After trailing by as many as 12 goals at one stage, the Proteas fought back bravely in the final quarter, but were unable to close the gap.
In the early stages of the match, the teams were exchanging goal for goal until a wayward pass by wing attack Bongiwe Msomi gave England the chance to get ahead. For the rest of the first quarter, the teams remained very close, and the quarter ended with England leading by 16 goals to 13.
The damage was done in the second quarter, when the Proteas were unable to score more than nine goals, while England responded with 14. Although Proteas goalshooter Lenize Potgieter finished with the outstanding shooting average of 94 per cent, scoring 33 goals from 35 attempts in the match, the Roses did an excellent job of keeping the ball away from the Proteas’ circle, thus limiting Potgieter’s scoring opportunities.
At halftime, England were 30-22 ahead. The Proteas started their fight back in the third quarter and started to close the gap. Coach Norma Plummer made some changes, bringing on Shadine van der Merwe and Izette Griesel at wing defence and wing attack, and Zanele Vimbela at goalkeeper. The Proteas shared the third quarter with 13 goals each.
In the final quarter, Msomi came back on as centre and immediately picked up the pace. At one stage, the Proteas were within two goals of the Roses, but a couple of missed passes had the Roses back on top. However, the Proteas won the quarter by 12 goals to nine.
“It’s the mistakes after great turnovers that cost us the game,” said Plummer.
“The damage was done in the second quarter. The players have to learn to hang on in those crunch situations.”
Captain Msomi said the team had failed to capitalise when they had the ball in hand.
“We know where we went wrong, and we have to fix that,” she said.
“But we’ve had good results against the top three countries in the world, and we feel prepared to take on anyone at the Commonwealth Games”.
England coach Tracey Neville was delighted with her team’s performance. The victory secured them second place in the Quad Series.
“We feel that we are on our way, and we are determined to win the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games,” she said.
“South Africa have improved tremendously over the past six months and they are always a tough team to play.
“The South African crowd was a new experience for us. There was a great vibe and they brought joy to the game,” said Neville.
Earlier, the Australian Diamonds coasted to a 67-48 victory over the New Zealand Silver Ferns..
The Silver Ferns, who beat the SPAR Proteas 51-46 on Thursday night, appeared flat and made a number of unforced errors. They managed to draw level with the Diamonds midway through the first quarter (5-5), but after that the Diamonds pulled away and the Ferns were unable to close the gap. At the end of the first quarter, the Diamonds led 17-9, and they stretched their lead with every successive quarter.
With the Commonwealth Games in Australia in mind, both teams made numerous changes so that all players were able to demonstrate their skills.
“We wanted a big win and we wanted a strong start, which is what we got,” said Diamonds captain Caitlin Bassett.
“We put everything out there on court, and we focused on the processes we needed to do every quarter, and let the score take care of itself.”
“We were very disappointed,” said Ferns coach Janine Southby.
“I think we were adjusting to the climate and the altitude and we had a hard game against the Proteas on Thursday, but there are no excuses. We just weren’t good enough.”
Goalshooter Maria Falou, who, uncharacteristically, missed a number of shots at goal in the first quarter, said the team would have to study the video of the game and eliminate the errors that had been made.