The Gauteng Jaguars and Western Cape Southern Stings will meet in tomorrow’s final of the Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League final at the University of Pretoria’s Rembrandt Hall.
That’s after the two teams that topped the log in the opening rounds safely negotiating their way through their respective semi-finals this afternoon.
The battle between the Western Cape’s Southern Stings and the Free State Crinums, proved to be a massive one. The last team these teams met, the Stings cruised to a comfortable 23-goal victory. But this was a very different Crinums team that took to the court – one that reminded both fans and their opposition, that they’ve won this tournament three times before. In a fierce fight, the Stings led by one at the first break, while it was the Crinums that were one goal in front by half time.
The ding-dong battle continued and it wasn’t until towards the end of the third quarter that the Stings managed to put just a little daylight daylight between themselves and the Free State team, reaching the end of the third quarter 36-32 ahead. It was an advantage they managed to retain, to eventually win 49-45 and book a spot in their first ever Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League final.
“It feels amazing – but the team worked for that,” said Stings coach Annelie Lucas. “They said they wanted to be in the finals. This was the game in which we didn’t perform in the last two years so they just decided it’s not going to be like that this time.”
Asked what the difference was between the two sides, Lucas added: “I think the resilience and at the end of the day, my shooters – when they get the ball, they sink it. Also calmness on attack and the tight defence – and the fact that the Crinums played yesterday and we didn’t. I think fresh legs did help.”
Crinums coach Burta de Kock said: “Here and there our decision-making under pressure was wrong and a shot here and there, but at the end of the day, we don’t only need to focus on the negative. There were brilliant moments, there was brilliant feeding into the circle and defence.
“Tomorrow’s third place playoff might not be a final, but for us it is – it’s the difference between a medal and a green certificate for participation. With these 12 players, I’m feeling comfortable to take it tomorrow.”
Earlier in the afternoon, the start of the first semi-final was also a tight one with the Jaguars first to get on the board and then never falling behind. They opened up a five-goal advantage at one stage, but each time they edged in front the North West Flames fought their way back to level matters. They were 14-14 with just seconds left in the first period, but the defending champions once again edged their noses in front to reach the break one goal up.
It was a different story in the second quarter, where the Flames were unable to close the gaps that the Jaguars opened up. Towards the end of the quarter, the Flames had no response to a sequence of six unanswered goals from the slick defending champions, which saw them extending their lead to 11, at 34-23 by half time.
Flames goal shooter Vanes-Mari Proudfoot was moved to goal keeper after the break to try and stem the flow of Jaguars goals. Her presence in the defensive circle initially seemed to do the trick, but eventual MVP, Ine-Mari Venter was outstanding on goal as the Jaguars proved too strong, powering their way ahead again to finish the third quarter 46-34 up. They then went on to win it by 56 to 45 to book their spot in their fifth consecutive final.
“The second quarter was big and we really had the discipline and a good plan. The girls really pulled through. The first quarter we couldn’t quite get to where we wanted to – it was a great fight from the Flames in that first quarter, but I’m happy with the result in the end,” said Jaguars coach Jenny van Dyk afterwards.
“This will be our fifth final – we’ve been in them all. From the first year it was important to me for us to create a team that performs consistently. We’ve had a few slip-ups in the finals over the years but overall we’ve been a very consistent team, which is what we want – to be able to deliver over and over again and hopefully that pulls us through tomorrow.”
Flames coach Elsjé Jordaan explained: “We had no answer for their height – and the feeding of Erin [Burger] and Izette [Griesel] was spot on. It went better in the second half of the game but it was too little too late – that’s how it goes.
“Overall I’m happy with how they fought to the end. If you take on a team that has four current Proteas and a bunch of under-21 internationals, it’s always going to be tough. They’ve been looking like a champion team right from the start and I think we did great if you look at what we played against,” added Jordaan, whose side will now play the Crinums for third place.
Earlier in the day, in a closely contested playoff for fifth spot, the Gauteng Fireballs managed to hold on for a 41-40 victory over the KwaZulu-Natal Kingdom Stars. The result means the Fireballs have dropped two positions from their third spot last year, while the Kingdom Stars have risen one place.
Meanwhile, it was mission accomplished for the Mpumalanga Sunbirds, who were determined to finish higher than their ninth place from last year. Coach Marlie Nel’s team managed to reverse the result from when they met the Limpopo Baobabs earlier in the tournament, and their 52-40 victory ensured that they ended in seventh spot.
In the playoff to avoid bottom spot, the Eastern Cape Aloes, who finished sixth in 2017, beat the Northern Cape Diamonds 58-39.