Prized places in next weekend’s semifinals of the Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League were the reward for the Western Cape Southern Stings and the Free State Crinums, after resounding quarterfinal victories at the Olive Convention Centre in Durban on Saturday.
First up were the Stings, who took on the KZN Kingdom Stars along with a sold-out home crowd. But the passionate crowd could do nothing to stop the phenomenal shooting of eventual player of the match Charmaine Baard and the rest of her fired-up Stings side, who took the match 44-23.
It was a close encounter at the start with the Stings initially surging to a 5-1 lead before the home team fought their way back and reached the first break just one goal behind on 9-8. The second quarter was similarly tight with the Stings managing to build a slightly more comfortable cushion by the next break at 19-4.
But a third-quarter collapse, largely due to some questionable substitutions saw the KZN team played out of contention. They managed just two goals during the 15-minute period while the Stings continued to shoot from just about anywhere in the circle for 16 goals in the quarter.
That set up the near-impossible task of catching up a 19-goal deficit in the final quarter – one that proved impossible despite their improved performance.
“We thought it was going to be a close one – two or three points so the big margin is definitely a surprise,” admitted Stings coach Annelie Lucas.
Echoing her coach’s sentiments was goal attack Baard. “The third quarter was very surprising but our defence played so well. All the balls were turned there and just came to us so easily and the game just flowed. We had a nice rhythm,” she said.
“We trained really hard this week and we went in with no mercy. We wanted to play our game and give it our all from the beginning and that’s what we did.”
Kingdom Stars captain Bongi Msomi was thankful for the tremendous support, despite the result. “We expected the game to be tough. I think a couple of changes here and there didn’t work for us but we can’t blame the changes because the game has to go on,” she said.
The other quarterfinal of the day also went according to round-robin form with the Free State Crinums claiming a 50-32 victory over the Gauteng Golden Fireballs.
While the first few minutes saw the lead changing hands several times, the Gauteng side soon lost touch with the Free Staters who had opened a seven-goal gap by the first break and then simply extended it as the game went on.
While it remained an entertaining contest, the defending champion Crinums seemed to be one step ahead of their opposition throughout with superior speed, passing and accuracy. Goal defence Karla Mostert’s outstanding performance earned her the Player of the Match accolade.
Crinums captain Maryke Holtzhausen was proud of how her team had started strong and kept up the intensity. “That’s something that we worked on during the week – improving our start. The last couple of matches we didn’t start off that well so it was great going into the second quarter already in the lead and we just wanted to continue building on that.”
Golden Fireballs coach Elsje Jordaan explained: “If you look at the experience of the two teams, there’s no real comparison. They are two-time champions, so we must be realistic and not make excuses – we were beaten by a much better team tonight but I’m happy with how it went.
“The only thing I’m disappointed with is the scoreline – if we could have kept it below 10 I would have been happier but at least they stuck it out the whole time and kept fighting.”
Meanwhile, in the playoffs for the bottom four places on Saturday, the Eastern Cape Aloes stayed on course to take seventh spot with a 49-34 victory over the Mpumalanga Sunbirds.
The Aloes raced to a 13-8 lead in the first quarter but then lost the second quarter to reach the half time break just 20-16 ahead. A few strategic substitutions did the trick for them in the second half of the match, however, to be able to pull away and secure the win.
“We knew this was going to be the toughest game of the weekend. The Sunbirds have made the most improvement through the series so we’re really pleased with the result and with the girls maintaining their control throughout the game,” said Aloes coach Des Neville. “We had a bad second quarter but they rebounded from that very well and the third quarter was our best.”
In the final seventh to 10th place playoff game of the night, the Northern Cape Diamonds beat the Limpopo Baobabs 46-35.
Two remaining games on Sunday will determine the final places from seven to 10 with the Eastern Cape Aloes taking on the Limpopo Baobabs at 10.30am and the Northern Cape Diamonds playing the Mpumalanga Sunbirds at 12.30pm – all at the Olive Convention Centre in Durban.