The Eastern Cape Aloes got their 2017 Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League campaign off to a perfect start on Friday night with a 38-30 win over the Kingdom Stars at the Durban University of Technology.
The Stars started slowly, taking five minutes to score their first goal, but fought their way back into the match, with the support of a very vocal home crowd, to lead 11-7 at the end of the first quarter. However, the Aloes hit back in the second quarter and the two teams were level at 17-all at halftime. The Eastern Cape side took control of the match in the third quarter, winning it by 11 goals to six, and although the Stars fought hard, they were unable to close the gap. It was sweet victory for the Aloes, who lost heavily to the Stars in their opening match last year.
“I think our fitness counted for a lot – we were able to maintain the intensity throughout,” said Aloes coach Des Neville.
“Thanks to the Eastern Cape netball academy, we have had more frequent training camps, and the players from the two provinces – Border and Eastern Cape – have bonded very well. Having Protea Lauren-Lee Christians, who moved from the Crinums to the Aloes, has also helped, because of her experience.”
The new coach of the Stars, Madri Maritz, said she was disappointed to have lost the opening match.
“We have lost a couple of our top players, and we have a lot of young players. But I was pleased that we were able to turn over a number of balls, and our circle defence was very good,” said Maritz.
Earlier, the Limpopo Stars, who finished last in 2016,showed their intent with a decisive 42-37 victory over the Mpumalanga Sunbirds, who finished in eighth place last year.
The Sunbirds were first on the board, but the Baobabs went into the lead midway through the first quarter, and were able to stay ahead for the rest of the match. The Sunbirds clawed their way back into the match in the second quarter and were just one goal behind (18-17) at half time, but the Baobabs surged ahead in the third quarter. Although the Sunbirds outscored them 10-8 in the final quarter, the Baobabs had done enough to secure their victory.
The Baobabs were particularly effective in the Sunbirds’ circle, where they were able to steal a number of balls.
“I told them to make sure that we won our own centre passes, and anything else was a bonus,” said new coach Dumisani Chauke.
“We also have a lot of new, young players, who are hungry for success. No-one knows anything about them and so they are under no pressure.”
Sunbirds coach Marlie Nel was disappointed that her team had been outplayed.
“The Baobabs had a very good game, and we threw away a lot of balls,” she said.
“I have a number of new players and some of them were very jittery. But this is just the beginning of the tournament, and we will get better.”