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The Southern Stings proved a point when they whipped the North West Flames 56-35 in the playoff for third place in the Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League at the Olive Centre on Saturday evening.

Both teams had to pick themselves up after losing their semifinal matches on Friday night, but the experienced Stings played like a team determined to show their strength, while the Flames appeared to have lost the spark that saw them unbeaten in the round robin stage of the NPL.  The Stings took the lead from the start, and the Flames were never able to close the gap.

With two veteran Protea stars in centre Erin Burger and goalkeeper Adele Niemand in their squad, the Stings were able to exert pressure on the younger Flames, who battled to get the ball into their circle.  The Stings shooters, Charmaine Baard and Mari-Lena Venter both had their shooting shoes on, and barely made a mistake.

“After the loss last night, I told them to feed off the crowd and off each other, and to enjoy themselves,” said Stings coach Annelie Lucas.

“I told them to play basic netball and to play as a team, and that was what they did.”

Flames coach Dorette Badenhorst was philosophical.

“Experience, that’s what it was,” she said.

“You can’t beat the experience of players like Erin and Adele.  We just couldn’t cope with the pressure.”

Burger, the player of the match, said they had not expected to win by such a big margin.

“This was, in a sense, our final, and we focussed on playing as a team,” she said.

The Kingdom Stars squeaked home by 40 goals to 39 in an exciting match for fifth position.  The home crowd got behind the team from KwaZulu Natal, le

The Fireballs got off to a poor start, losing the first quarter by eight goals to 15, but stormed back to win the second by 11 goals to five, after coach Elsje Jordaan made some changes to the team.  The Fireballs moved ahead of the Stars early in the third quarter, but it was the final quarter that had the crowd in a frenzy of excitement.

Player of the match Precious Mthembu was superb, with some outstanding intercepts and turnovers that made all the difference.

“I am very happy that we have moved up one position,” said coach Marchelle Maroun.

“Our first aim was to reach the semifinals, but we have to be realistic.  We will climb that ladder step by step,” she said.

Fireballs coach Elsje Jordaan was visibly disappointed that her team had lost in the final seconds of the match, when there was confusion over the final whistle.

“We had a bad start, but we came back so strongly,” she said.

“But we’ll be back next year,” she said.

“We know out shortcomings and we know what to do.”