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The defending champions, the Free State Crinums, clinched fifth position in the Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League when they thrashed the Eastern Cape Aloes 77-28 in their play-off match at the Mangaung Indoor Arena on Saturday.

The Aloes were on a hiding to nothing, as the Crinums, who won three consecutive titles, had something to prove, and they did so in style. Their charismatic captain Maryka Holtzhausen has looked better than ever since her return from an eight-month lay-off because of injury and she led her team with aplomb.

By halftime, the Crinums were 44-15 ahead, and it was clear that the Aloes were woefully outclassed.

“It was a disappointing way to finish the tournament,” said Aloes coach Des Neville.

“But I am very proud of the way they fought to the end. Height has been a problem for us – we obviously need to look for tall goal defenders and shooters so that we are not at a disadvantage.

“Our goal was to finish in the top six, and we did that, so we achieved our basic goal,” said Neville.

“This is not the finish we wanted, but I am very satisfied with the way they played,” said Crinums coach Burta de Kock.

“I was pleased that I was able to play my whole bench, and when I changed the combinations, the players adapted well. We have a lot of young players, and it is good to know we have a lot of depth.”

Earlier, the Limpopo Baobabs set up a grudge match with the Kingdom Stars with a narrow 50-47 victory over the Mpumalanga Sunbirds.

The Baobabs drew with the Stars in their round robin match, when the Stars came from behind to draw level in the last minutes of their match.

The Mpumalanga Sunbirds have grown throughout the tournament, and the Baobabs had to fight for every goal. Although they led for most of the match, the Sunbirds won the second and final quarters. In the dying minutes of the match, the Baobabs tossed the ball around to keep the Sunbirds from scoring.

“We are looking forward to playing the Stars tomorrow – we believe we can beat them. But whatever happens, we have improved our position,” said Baobabs coach Dumisani Chauke.

“We have always finished last, and tomorrow we play for seventh position.”

Marlie Nel, the Sunbirds coach, was visibly disappointed, although she was proud of the way her team had played.

“Our defence and attack were both going well, and then our centre started developing cramps in her legs, and I had to take her off. Removing such a key player disrupted the rest of the team,” she said.

The Stars barely raised a sweat in demolishing the Northern Cape Diamonds 66-26. The Stars, who finished in fifth position last year, have had a disappointing tournament this year, but they came out strongly against the Diamonds, who have not won a match this year.

The teams were level for the first three minutes, but then the Stars, who have two Proteas in their team, started pulling away. By halftime, they were 20 points ahead, (34-14) and they continued to pile on the pressure. The Diamonds fought hard, but were outclassed.

Coach Madri Maritz said their combinations had worked well and their defence had been effective.

“We would like to play the Baobabs in our play-off for seventh place tomorrow. We drew with them earlier in the tournament, and we have a point to prove,” said Maritz.

Maria Maiya, coach of the Diamonds, bemoaned the poor passes and unforced errors that had cost her team dearly.

“We will have to focus more when we play our last match tomorrow,” she said.