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 The North West Flames gave notice of their intentions with a clinical 50-27 victory over the Gauteng Fireballs in their Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League match at the Pretoria University Sports Centre on Saturday afternoon.

It was an emotionally charged match, with the two coaches facing the teams they coached last year.  The Flames started off strongly and maintained the pressure throughout the game, stretching their lead in every quarter.  By halftime, they were 25-12 ahead, having restricted the Fireballs to six goals in each of the first two quarters.

Flames coach Elsje Jordaan stuck to her starting line-up, making no changes, whereas Fireballs coach Dorette Badenhorst made a number of changes in each quarter.  Jordaan’s game plan appeared to work, as the Flames controlled possession for much of the match.  None of the shooters excelled, but the Flames had more opportunities in the circle.

“I didn’t expect such a decisive victory,” said Jordaan.

“We started strong, and this time we maintained that in the second half as well. Our shooters need to get more shots in, but that’s something we can work on.

“It was a very emotional match for me, because I had a good year with the Fireballs last year, and I love those girls.  But I love the Flames as well.  I tried to minimize the emotions by focusing on our team and what we had to do, and not focusing on the opposition.”

“Our players were just not mentally tough enough,” said Badenhorst.

“We’re struggling with certain positions – I need to find a reliable centre who can play for the whole match.  We just weren’t getting the ball to the circle often enough.

“One of our problems is that many of the players work, and so can’t train as often as the university-based teams.

“We will have to come up with another game plan before our next match, which is against the Free State Crinums.”

The encounter between the Eastern Cape Aloes and the Mpumalanga Sunbirds ended in a thrilling 38-all draw.

It was always going to be an exciting match, with both teams desperate for a win. The Sunbirds won the first quarter 9-12, but the Aloes came back strongly in the second quarter, which they won 11-5, to go into the second half with a 20-17 lead. The Sunbirds played with renewed energy in the third, to win it by 11 goals to seven.

The final quarter was frenetic, with the ball swinging from end to end.  The Aloes crept into a three-goal lead, but the Sunbirds responded with vigor. The defenders at both ends showed commitment and skill but both sides started making passing errors as they struggled to exert their authority. The Sunbirds caught up with their opponents.  The Aloes had the ball in their circle when the final whistle went, and although the Aloes won the quarter 11-10, the match ended in a draw.

“We needed a win not a draw,” said Aloes coach Des Neville.

“They performed quite well today, but we’re playing eight minutes a quarter and letting things go for the last seven minutes.

“On a positive note, some of our combinations are beginning to gel and what we need to focus on now is maintaining possession.”

“It’s never nice to draw, but the players are feeling much more positive now,” said Sunbirds coach Marlie Nel.

“I had a motivational speaker talk to them and they are feeling much better about themselves, although they had a bad dip in the second quarter,” she said..

“I think this match will set us up nicely for our matches against the Northern Cape Diamonds and the Kingdom Stars next weekend.”