The North West Flames reached their first Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League final with a narrow 51-49 victory over the Golden Fireballs in their semifinal at the Mangaung Indoor Arena on Saturday.
The Flames trailed the Fireballs for most of the match. At halftime, the Fireballs had a 27-24 lead. Both teams achieved some superb intercepts and turnovers, and the game was fast and furious. The Fireballs had a five-goal lead at the end of the third quarter, but in the final 15 minutes, the Flames started closing in on them. In the sixth minute, they drew level, on 42-all, and then edged into the lead. Goal attack Renske Stoltz, who had a shaky start, found her mojo and the net.
“I don’t know what turned the match, but I am very happy to have reached our first final,” said Flames coach Dorette Badenhorst.
“We didn’t play beautiful netball, and their game plans weren’t always the same as mine, but a win is a win.
“Tomorrow’s final against the Jaguars will be like last year’s Varsity Cup final all over again. It’s going to be a heck of a match.”
Jordaan was disappointed, but proud that her team had moved from sixth place last year to top four.
“The team has come a long way.
“I think we lost it in the centre court – our centre Nadia Uys Pienaar wasn’t feeling well and I had to manage her. At one stage she came off and I had to juggle things around, but we lacked that extra driving force at that stage and that’s where they got ahead.”
Earlier, the Gauteng Jaguars cruised into their fourth consecutive final, beating the Southern Stings 60-43 in the semifinal after a slow start.
The Stings came out firing on all cylinders, and the Jaguars looked all at sea in the first quarter. They missed the ball, made some wild passes and appeared to be overcome by the occasion. At the end of the first quarter, the Stings were 15-11 ahead.
Jaguars coach Jenny van Dyk made a crucial change, replacing Protea Ina-Marie Venter with former Protea Chrisna van Zyl as goalshooter, and the older player’s experience immediately made the difference. The Jaguars started clawing themselves back into the match and less than two minutes before halftime, they went into the lead. At halftime, they had a 25-23 lead, winning the second quarter by 14 goals to eight.
Stings coach Annelie Lucas made several changes, including trying Protea goalkeeper Phumza Maweni at goal defence, but the Jaguars maintained the pressure.
In the final quarter, the Jaguars stepped up a gear and won the quarter by 19 goals to nine.
The match was hard and physical, with a number of players crashing to the floor.
Lucas was disappointed that once again, the Stings had been the team of the tournament, only to crash out in the semifinals.
“We made too many mistakes on attack, trying the force the ball, and feeding too far,” she said.
“But we have another game tomorrow – it’s not the game we wanted to play, but we will be going all out to retain our bronze medal. And there’s always next year.”
Van Dyk said the experienced Van Zyl, the player of the match, had made all the difference.
“She knows Phumza well, and knows how she plays,” said Van Dyk.
She said she did not mind which team the Jaguars met in the final.
“But there’s a small part of me that would have liked to have played the Free State Crinums – they beat us in three consecutive finals, and I would have loved to have come up against them.”