The Free State Crinums cruised to a 46-25 victory over the Mpumalanga Sunbirds in their Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League (BFNPL) match at the Ellis Park Indoor Arena on Friday night.

The Crinums, who finished fifth last year, after winning the first three tournaments, looked comfortable, although the Sunbirds performed better than the score line suggests.  Both teams were tentative in the first quarter, but started finding their feet as the match continued.  The defenders on both sides achieved a number of turnovers in the circle.  At halftime, the Crinums were 36-18 ahead.

“The first game is always a bit of hide-and-seek,” said Crinums coach Burta de Kock.

“The Crinums are a fast team, but they didn’t use their speed to their advantage tonight.  I changed the combinations every quarter, and gave all 12 players some game time.  That’s very important in the first match of a tournament.

“There are a lot of wrinkles to iron out, but I am happy with the win.”

“We struggled in the first quarter,” said Sunbirds coach Marlie Nel.

“But they played better after that.  I think a lot of it was down to nerves.  We have some very young players – two of them were still at school last year. But we also have some very experienced players and I think we are going to do much better this year,” she said.

The Sunbirds finished ninth last year

Earlier, the Kingdom Stars got off to an excellent start, beating the Northern Cape Diamonds by 59 goals to 34.

Despite having lost top players like Proteas captain Bongi Msomi and veteran centre court player Precious Mthembu, the Stars looked slick and purposeful.  They led by seven goals after the first quarter, and then extended their lead with every successive quarter.  At halftime they were 31-15 ahead, and they led 42-22 after the third quarter.

The fourth quarter was the Diamonds’ best as they scored 12 goals – their highest in any quarter.

“It was a disappointing start to the tournament,” said coach Elfreda Luyt.

“They didn’t play the way they practiced, but they had a very early start and a long journey to get here.

“They can definitely play better than they did today, and I was pleased with the combination in the final quarter, when they finally clicked.  But the Stars were definitely the better team.”

Kingdom Stars coach Madri Maritz was much happier with her team.

“I am very happy with our start,” she said.

“The combinations in the third quarter didn’t work too well, but generally I thought they played well.

“We are without some of our top players, but we are focusing on developing talent, and our team is an ideal blend of youth and experience.  And I am very pleased to see the youngsters giving the senior players a run for their money,” said Maritz.