The defending champions, the Gauteng Jaguars, triumphed over the former champions, the Free State Crinums, in their Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League match at the Pretoria University Sports Centre on Saturday night.

In the end, the Jaguars won by a comfortable margin of 45 goals to 36, but it was a hard-fought match, with neither side giving an inch.

The Crinums led 13-9 after the first quarter, and it was only two thirds of the way into the second quarter that the Jaguars drew level at 17-all, to the delight of the partisan crowd, who cheered the home team’s every success.

For the rest of the quarter, the teams exchanged goal for goal, with the Jaguars just ahead on 22-21 at halftime.

The Jaguars stepped up a gear in the second half, and gradually pulled away from the Free State team, to lead 32-27 at the third interval.

It was a fast and physical match, with the defense on both sides doing sterling work in achieving turnovers and rebounds.  Both centres, Erin Burger for the Jaguars and Khanyisa Chawane for the Crinums, seemed able to be wherever they were needed on court.

“I thought they were a feisty bunch of Crinums,” said Jaguars coach Jenny van Dyk.

“It was nice to play such a competitive match and even nicer to win.  My concern is the shooters are not being consistent enough, but to be fair, the Crinums defense was excellent.  South Africa is certainly not short of defenders.”

Crinums coach Burta de Kock, who made a number of changes in every quarter, said it was a pity that the combinations she tried would get an advantage, and then fall behind again.

“We need more consistency,” she said.

“But I have a number of young players and they are growing with every match.”

The Limpopo Baobabs outgunned the Northern Cape Diamonds 66-36.

In the early stages, the Diamonds were more or less able to keep pace with the Baobabs, and were just four goals behind at the first interval (15-11) but they lost contact with the team from Limpopo in the second quarter, scoring just seven goals to 21 for the Baobabs.  From then on, it was just a matter of fighting for survival as the Baobabs stretched their lead with every quarter.  The Diamonds managed to win the final quarter 12-11, but it was too little too late.

“We did quite well in the first quarter and we won the last quarter, so I am pleased with the improvement since last week,” said Diamonds coach Elfrieda Luyt.

“We practiced the whole of last week, and the more you practice, the more you improve.”

Baobabs coach Jenne-lee Delport was delighted with the result, although she said there were still areas for improvement.

“I brought a lot of my bench players on in the third quarter and they struggled a bit at the beginning, but then they started to find their feet,” she said.

The Western Cape Stings gave the Kingdom Stars a lesson in netball, beating

them 58-29 in a match in which they barely raised a sweat.

The Stings dominated play from the start.  Their centre court players, led by centre Shannen Bartlett, controlled the court and made it very difficult for the Stars to get the ball into their circle.

The Stings had a lead of 14-5 after the first quarter and were 30-11 ahead at halftime.  They were fast and decisive, turning over the ball on numerous occasions and forcing the Stars into handling errors.

While the Stars came back strongly in the second half in their match against the North West Flames on Friday, there was no such resurgence against the Stings.  In the final quarter, however, when Stings coach Danlee Mathews brought on some of her younger bench players, the Stars were able to play more freely and feed the ball into their circle.  They kept pace with the Stings and lost the quarter by just one goal (13-12).

“I’m very happy with the way they played,” said a delighted Mathews.

“We’ve done a lot of psychological work with them and it is bearing fruit.  They are also sticking to our game plans and systems, and it is working.”

“The Sting are always a difficult team to play,” said Stars coach Madri Maritz.

“Their defense is outstanding and they outsmarted us.

“But I am very pleased that they never gave up and played their hearts out.”

In earlier matches, the North West Flames thrashed the Gauteng Fireballs 58-29 in an emotion-filled match, where both coaches were facing the team they coached last year.  The Eastern Cape Aloes and Mpumalanga Sunbirds drew their match 38-all, after the lead had changed hands every quarter.