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The Gauteng Jaguars will head into the playoff stage of the Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League as the only unbeaten team. That’s after a resounding win over the KwaZulu-Natal Kingdom Stars at the University of Pretoria’s Rembrandt Hall on Friday afternoon.

The defending champions looked entirely untroubled as they cruised to the 76-23 victory. It was almost two minutes into the match before the first goal was scored – and that first one belonged to the Stars. But that was the last time they were in the lead, as the Jaguars soon asserted their dominance and had opened up a 17-4 lead by the end of the first quarter.

With the Stars only managing two goals in the second period, that margin was extended even further with the teams reaching half time on 38-6. Apart from the obvious height advantage the Jaguars enjoyed on court – they were also simply far quicker and more accurate than their KZN opponents, and that made all the difference.

Jaguars assistant coach Rozanne Matthyse said: “We’re very happy and very proud of the girls for pulling it through and making it to the end of the pool matches unbeaten.

“It wasn’t specifically a goal we set before the tournament. We just wanted them to play good netball.”

Matthyse, whose team have booked an automatic spot in the semi-finals after topping the log, explained that in order to prepare for next weekend’s back-to-back playoff matches, the team had played a tough game in training on Thursday.

“We are obviously focusing on next weekend and making sure that the girls follow a strategy for those games so that’s what we were testing and it paid off,” she said.

“From the beginning we had a common team goal and we knew we were going to work very hard to achieve that goal, which is to be excellent and brilliant in everything we do.”

Stars coach Madri Maritz said afterwards: “It was always going to be a tough match but I’m not happy with the score. I think the ladies didn’t play to the level they’re capable of. There are a lot of things we need to go and look at before next weekend, but every game is a new game.”

Having all but secured sixth spot on the log, the Stars at least still have a shot at reaching the semi-finals. “I’m quite positive about that – we’ve got a week to work on it so it’s going to be a hard week and next weekend isn’t going to be an easy weekend at all,” added Maritz.

The second match of the day between the Free State Crinums and the Eastern Cape Aloes was a much tighter affair. While the Crinums finished comfortable 50-33 winners in the end, the Aloes would have gained a great deal of confidence from the fact that they in fact won the second quarter. There were only four goals in it at half time, with the score on 21-17. But a stronger second half saw the three-time champions pulling away for the win.

Crinums coach Burta de Kock said afterwards: “It was a tough game. We started a bit slow but I’m very happy that we could pull it through and congratulations to the team that finished successful at the end of the day. Now it’s on to preparation for next weekend.”

Aloes coach Des Neville added: “I think part of my team’s advantage is that when they go out and there’s not too much pressure on them they actually really perform well. They stuck to my game plan. We set some different goals for ourselves – to keep the margin as low as possible, below 20 was the main target, and I think in the first two quarters we surprised ourselves by actually winning that second quarter. Unfortunately we just ran out of steam towards the end with some of our players only arriving tomorrow so we had a very small bench.”

After finishing ninth on the log, the Aloes will now play in the first of the playoff matches for positions seven to 10 on Sunday while the Crinums will go into battle next weekend with the aim of securing a semi-final spot.