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The defending champions, the Free State Crinums, were dethroned on Friday night, when the Southern Stings beat them 52-42 in a thrilling Brutal Fruit Premier League match at the Mangaung Indoor Stadium on Friday night.

The Stings will play the Jaguars in the semifinals next weekend, while the Crinums, who won the first three tournaments, will play the Eastern Aloes on Saturday for fifth position.

Play was fast and furious, and it was only in the last five minutes that the Stings pulled away, after leading 25-24 at halftime. For most of the match, there was very little between the teams, and the Crinums actually went into the lead for part of the third quarter, before the Stings forced their way back into the lead. The Stings’ Namibian goalshooter, Jaumbuaije Zauana, was on song, finding the net with almost every attempt and was named player of the match. The defence in both circles was outstanding and play swung from end to end throughout.

Crinums coach Burta de Kock was disappointed, but philosophical.

“That’s life,” she said.

“Our problem was inconsistency of decision making and that will only improve with experience. We have a number of very young players in the team and we will go back and get ready to reclaim our title next year.”

Stings coach Annelie Lucas beamed from ear to ear.

“We knew it was going to be a tough match, and we knew that (Crinums captain) Maryka Holtzhausen would have a major influence on the match, with all her skill and experience,” she said.

“But we were patient and took the match step by step. The girls all played for one another, and I think it was teamwork that made the difference.

“We are very excited to be in the semifinals, and we are ready for the Jaguars next week.”

The Golden Fireballs secured a place in the semifinal for the first time with a comprehensive 68-24 thumping of the Eastern Cape Aloes.

They will play the North West Flames in the semifinal next weekend.

The Fireballs started well and maintained their dominance throughout the match. They scored 15 goals in the first two quarters, 16 in the third and 22 in the final quarter, despite playing without their regular goalshooter, Deanke Rohde, who has been ill. Talja Venter, who normally plays goal attack, stepped up to the plate and she and Lindie Lombard kept control of their circle.

Coach Elsje Jordaan played her whole bench, apart from Rohde, and said she was very happy with the way the team had played.

“We were a bit flat last week when we played the Jaguars, and we lost by five goals. I think it was a bit of a wake-up call – I think we had been a bit complacent. But I was proud of the way they played today,” she said.

“Our goal was to score at least 15 goals in each quarter, and we did that. The shooters need to share the load, and Talja and Lindie did that well today.

“This is the best we have done in the Brutal Fruit so far – we’ve always ended outside the top four, so I am very pleased about that.”

Aloes coach Des Neville was also pleased that her team had achieved their best finish in the history of the tournament.

“We’ve always ended seventh, and our immediate goal was to reach the top six. We will play off for fifth place tomorrow,” she said.

“But I was disappointed that we didn’t play as well as I think we could have. However, all credit to the Fireballs. They are a strong team and I always knew it would be a tough match.

“I thought our defenders were very good. I was pleased with the way they turned over balls, and also that they maintained their discipline.

“We have another match tomorrow, and we will see how we do then,” said Neville.