The SPAR Proteas fought hard but were unable to get the better of the defending champions, the New Zealand Silver Ferns, in their SPAR SANZEA Quad Series netball match at the Ellis Park Arena on Thursday night.
The Silver Ferns won the match by 51 goals to 46, but it was their smallest margin of victory over the Proteas since 1995, when they lost to South Africa at the Netball World Cup in Birmingham. South Africa went on to play Australia in the final, and were beaten 68-48.
The Proteas got off to a flying start and were ahead of the Silver Ferns until five minutes before the end of the first quarter, when the Silver Ferns drew level and then scored a flurry of goals, to win the quarter 14-9.
That five goal difference was to prove crucial, as the two teams tied the next three quarters. At times, the Proteas were able to get to within two goals of New Zealand, but each time they did, the Silver Ferns pulled away again. After being just two goals behind with five minutes left to play, the Proteas appeared to panic and New Zealand were able to stretch their lead again.
“We lost the match in the first quarter,” said South African head coach Norma Plummer.
“We started off well, and then let them get ahead. But they were sensational. We are getting closer all the time. I am very proud of the team – they don’t often play at that intensity, whereas Australia and New Zealand play each other all the time.”
The match was very physical and played at pace. The South African defenders, Phumza Maweni and Karla Pretorius achieved some outstanding turnovers in the circle, and goal shooter Lenize Potgieter finished with the best shooting statistics, scoring 31 goals from 36 attempts.
“Poor decision making cost us the match,” said Plummer.
“But this is a learning curve. It was a pressure game and New Zealand were forced to keep their foot down for the whole game.”
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” said captain Bongiwe Msomi.
“We are number five in the world and we were playing number two. But we have seen where we are going and we believe that win will come.
“It was great to have the crowd behind us – it’s almost like having an eighth player.”
“South Africa are not an easy team to play,” said Silver Ferns captain Katrina Grant.
“We knew they would come hard at us, and they have come a very long way.”
The Proteas are in action again on Sunday, when they play the England Roses. Their match follows a mouth-watering encounter between the world champions, the Australian Diamonds, and the Silver Ferns.