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Durban, South Africa – Defending champions North West were blasted out of the SPAR National Netball championships at the Hoy Park Sports Centre in Durban on Friday, losing to Gauteng One and Western Cape.

Western Cape were unbeaten through the tournament and will play Free State in the final on Saturday morning.

North West played Gauteng One in the morning of the fifth day, and were beaten 55-31.  Gauteng, who finished third on the log, came out with guns blazing and by halftime were 28-16 ahead.  Gauteng’s Protea goalshooter Lenise Potgieter, who had been out of action with an injury for six weeks before the national championships, appeared to be back to her usual accuracy, slotting goal after goal, while the North West shooters had difficulty getting the ball in the net.

“When we knew we couldn’t make the final, we were determined to finish in third place,” said coach Jenny van Dyk. “Lenise has her rhythm back and that affects the whole team.  We built her up gradually during the tournament until she had regained her confidence. “The team has grown throughout the tournament, and I think we have learnt a lot,” said Van Dyk.

In their afternoon game, North West were no match for log leaders Western Cape, who beat them 55-31. North West looked better than they had in the morning, and goal attack Renske Stoltz had her shooting mojo back, landing some outstanding goals, but Western Cape were just too good for them.

Their defence was outstanding and captain Erin Burger controlled the game from the centre.  Vanes-Marie du Toit, back in action after a very long injury lay-off, proved her versatility by playing goalshooter in the first half and goalkeeper in the second. “I was able to try out different combinations and spare some of the legs for the final tomorrow,” said coach Annali Lucas.“Everything has gone according to plan this week.  We won’t make the mistake of under-estimating Free State, who have a habit of losing in the round robin stages and then winning in the final.  We will be well prepared for the match tomorrow,” she said.

In other matches played on Friday, KwaZulu Natal (KZN) A1 beat Eastern Cape 51-36; Western Cape beat Limpopo 81-29; Free State beat Mpumalanga 65-35,  KZN A2 78-16 and KZN A1 54-39; Gauteng Two beat Northern Cape 51-33 and Limpopo 56-37; Eastern Cape beat Northern Cape 38-29 and Gauteng One beat KZN A2 79-29.

Meanwhile, Free State and Protea captain Maryka Holtzhausen, who sustained a suspected torn ligament in her right knee on Thursday, will consult a doctor and have MRI scans in Bloemfontein on Monday.  If it proves to be a torn ligament, she will miss the Quad Series against Australia, New Zealand and England later this month.