The SPAR Proteas had an awful start to their match against the New Zealand Silver Ferns in their Sanzea Quad Series netball match in Tauranga on Tuesday and were soundly beaten by 61 goals to 37.

Although the SPAR Proteas were first on the board, it was 10 minutes before they were able to score their second goal, while New Zealand netted 11 unanswered goals. The SPAR Proteas battled to get the ball into their circle and even when they did, luck was not on their side – twice the ball rolled round the rim of the net and then dropped out, only to be snatched up by a New Zealand defender. The Silver Ferns defensive pair of Katrina Grant and Jane Watson was formidable, making life extremely difficult for the South African shooters. Maryka Holtzhausen, playing at goal attack, finally broke the Kiwi run of goals with a well-directed ball. The Silver Ferns won the quarter by 17 goals to seven, with goalshooter Maria Folau succeeding with every goal attempt.

The SPAR Proteas came back strongly in the second quarter, scoring 12 goals to 13 for the Silver Ferns. Midway through the quarter, coach Norma Plummer replaced Holtzhausen with Ine-Mari Venter to add some height in the circle. She and her Jaguars teammate, Lenize Potgieter, combined well together and were able to score more freely. The halftime score was 30-19.

The SPAR Proteas centre court battled against the more focused Silver Ferns and continued to struggle to get the ball to their shooters. Gina Crampton at wing attack and Silver Ferns captain Laura Langman were too powerful for the less experienced Chanyisa Chawane and Shadine van der Merwe. The Silver Ferns won the third quarter 14-11, to lead 44-30.

In the final quarter, New Zealand stepped up a gear and won the quarter by 17 goals to seven – an echo of the dismal first quarter performance by the Proteas.

The Proteas’ struggles to get the ball to the shooters was the crucial difference between the teams. The Silver Ferns had 71 attempts at goal, and the SPAR Proteas just 49. Folau finished with 35 goals from 37 attempts and Pretorius with 28 from 31.

“Well, we’re back to square one,” said Plummer philosophically after the game. “It’s still a slight improvement – we used to lose by more than 30 goals, but this was 24 and that’s not good enough.

“We got off to a bad start and were not able to recover from it.”

The core of the Proteas’ centre court players has been hit by injury and illness, forcing Plummer to play a very inexperienced centre court.

The SPAR  Proteas take on the England Roses in Melbourne on Sunday, in their last match of the current Quad Series.