Despite an outstanding start, the SPAR Proteas lost their opening match of the 2018 Sanzea Netball Quad Series in Auckland, New Zealand, going down 61-44 to the Australian Diamonds.
The Proteas were on fire at the start, overturning Australia’s opening centre pass, with goalkeeper Phumza Maweni achieving a brilliant intercept in the circle. In the first quarter, the two teams were neck and neck, with the lead changing hands several times. Maweni and goal defence Karla Pretorius combined very well together, but the Australian shooters, Caitlin Bassett and Stephanie Wood still achieved 100 per cent accuracy in the quarter, which ended with the Diamonds leading 13-11. It was their lowest first quarter score against South Africa in 14 years.
With veteran centre court players Erin Burger and Precious Mthembu sidelined with illness and injury, the Proteas’ lack of experience in the centre began to show in the second quarter, despite the efforts of captain Bongi Msomi at wing attack. The Proteas lost some crucial centre passes and the Diamonds began to edge ahead, scoring a flurry of unanswered goals, to lead 28-24 at halftime.
But in the third quarter, the Diamonds, playing in their first international since losing to England by one goal in the final of the Commonwealth Games earlier this year, took control of the match, winning the quarter by 18 goals to eight. They brought on Kelsey Browne at wing attack, and the debutant injected speed and accuracy. Proteas coach Norma Plummer substituted Ine-Mari Venter for Maryke Holtzhausen at goal attack, to add more height in the shooting circle.
In the final quarter, Holtzhausen was brought back and Venter took on the role of goalshooter from Lenize Potgieter, succeeding with 10 goals from 10 attempts. Rome Dreyer (centre) and Jessica Khomo (wing defence) made their international debuts. With a 14-goal cushion, Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander was able to make a number of changes and give most of her bench some game time.
The Proteas managed to keep pace with the Diamonds in the final quarter, which they lost by just three goals. (15-12). But the damage had been done in the third quarter and they were unable to make up the difference.
“We started off very well, and were really in the game in the first half,” said Msomi.
“But our decision-making let us down in the second half and that is something we will have to work on.
“We knew after the halftime break that the Diamonds would come out firing and they sure did. Yes, we should have put more pressure on them but we’ve learned a lesson,” said Msomi.
“I am so proud of the team and particularly of the new caps, and the way they handled themselves and played this big game. It’s great for the future of the SPAR Proteas,” she said.
“We made a great start, as planned but some mistakes cost us,” said Plummer.
“We need to keep the same intensity as we started throughout the match.
“Missing four key players, especially in the centre court, is not easy but it has given opportunities to some new caps and come the World Cup next year we will hopefully have a bigger pool of players to choose from.”
In the second match, the England Roses beat the New Zealand Silver Ferns 52-39, showing their Commonwealth Games success was not just a flash in the pan.
The Proteas take on New Zealand in Tauranga on Tuesday.