Proteas netballers get closer against New Zealand, but still no cigar
The Proteas mixed grit and hope at the Ellis Park indoor arena on Thursday night as they gave the mighty Silver Ferns their closest contest in 23 years.
But it just wasn’t enough as the Kiwis won this encounter 51-46 to keep alive their hopes of retaining the quad series crown.
Having succumbed by just four goals to Australia in their opening match of the quad series at the weekend‚ the South African netballers went into this match with great aspirations. And they attacked from the start and rocketed into a 3-0 lead‚ much to the delight of the partisan crowd who cheered every home goal with ear-splitting applause.
But the experienced‚ slick New Zealanders glided back into the game‚ finding gaps between the South Africans to pass the ball and boxing in the goal-shooters. And they preyed on unforced errors.
The crowd responded with silence.
By the end of the first quarter the visitors led 14-9 and at halftime 25-21.
In the third quarter captain Bongi Msomi‚ who moved to centre‚ rallied her troops into a magnificent fightback‚ reducing the deficit to just two points at 29-31‚ but the black juggernaut rolled once more with a decisive wave of good play to see out the stanza 39-34.
On several occasions the Proteas looked like world-beaters — goal shoot Lenize Potgieter and goal attack Maryka Holtzhausen were menacing in front of the basket and on the other side Karla Mostert-Pretorius and Phumza Maweni were as disruptive as tsotsis in downtown Joburg.
Had they stolen a few more of these moments‚ they could have recorded their first victory over New Zealand since the 1995 world championships.
At least Thursday’s five-point margin is the closest they’ve come against New Zealand since then‚ eclipsing the six-pointer from last year.
“It was poor decision making at the end when we had such sensational turn-overs and then blew it at the other end‚” said SA coach Norma Plummer.
“The game wasn’t a skilled game‚ but it was a pressure game. New Zealand knew they had to put their foot down all the time…they just finished it off a bit better.”
New Zealand Coach Janine Southby was pleased with her team’s ability to show composure‚ one of their failures when losing against England in their series opener.
“To everybody keep calm under pressure in the final minutes was pleasing‚” she said. “We didn’t do that against England.”
SA play England in the final match on Sunday while New Zealand take on unbeaten Australia.