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The Southern Stings suffered their first defeat in this year’s Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League when the Jaguars came back from a four goal deficit at halftime to beat the Western Cape side 46-42 on Friday night.

The match was played in front of a packed stand at the Bellville Velodrome, with the partisan crowd cheering every goal, intercept and turnover by the home side. For the first five minutes, goals went with centre passes, but then the Stings scored a string of unanswered goals and slowly pulled away. At halftime, they were 24-20 ahead and appeared set to maintain their unbeaten record.

However, the Jaguars stormed back in the second half. Within five minutes, they had levelled the scores on 25-all, and three minutes later, they took the lead for the first time. The match was played at a frenetic pace, and there were so many tumbles that at times, it looked more like a rugby match, with players sprawled on the floor.

Both sides achieved breathtaking intercepts and the defence was outstanding in both circles. Jaguars coach Jenny van Dyk was jubilant. “I told them at halftime that if they wanted to hand the match to the Stings on a plate, that was their choice.

If they wanted to win, they had to work for it,” she said. “It was the first match where we didn’t have the player of the match, and that tells me that it was a real team effort.” Stings coach Annelie Lucas said her team was exactly where she wanted them to be.

“Last time we won all our matches until the knockout stages. Losing this match could be a good thing – they will work even harder now,” said Lucas.

“It was a great game, and the outcome wasn’t certain right until the end. It’s game on – this is Brutal Fruit and winning isn’t easy.”

Proteas captain Maryka Holtzhausen showed that she was back with a vengeance when she led the Free State Crinums to a crushing 74-28 victory over the Limpopo Baobabs.

In only her third match after an eight month lay-off for a serious knee injury, Holtzhausen, playing goal attack, was named the player of the match. The Crinums, who had lost all their matches until Holtzhausen’s return last weekend, put on a clinical display and were 21-6 ahead after the first quarter and 36-14 at halftime.

The Baobabs tried hard but the more experienced Crinums were just too good for them. “Maryka has made a huge difference to the team,” said coach Burta de Kock.

“It’s her calm demeanor and her experience that gives them confidence. The only time we slipped a bit was in the second quarter, when Maryka seemed to lose focus and was missing close shots. But she was back to normal after that and we just went from strength to strength.”

“I was able to try out difference strategies and they all worked perfectly.”

Baobabs coach Dumisani Chauke said she was disappointed in her team.

“Netball is the only game where you get an equal number of centre passes, and if you don’t score off your centre pass, you can’t win. They lost too many of their centre passes and they didn’t stick to the game plan. When they did, they were able to get the ball into the circle and score.”