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Durban, South AfricaDefending champions South Africa got off to the best possible start in the netball Diamond Challenge at the University of Durban Westville on Sunday, with an emphatic 70-35 trouncing of Zimbabwe.

The SPAR Proteas were in control throughout the game, despite some spirited play by Zimbabwe. They were 20-7 ahead after the first quarter, and led 37-20 at halftime.

Zimbabwe had their best results in the third quarter, which South Africa won by only three goals, but the Zimbabweans’ lack of international experience was obvious.

The South Africa defence was outstanding, with Phumza Maweni and Karla Mostert making life hard for the Zimbabweans in their circle. Maweni achieved some outrageous intercepts and earned the player of the match award for her efforts.

Coach Norma Plummer rang the changes, using all members of the squad, apart from Vanes-Mari du Toit, who had a slight injury. She tried a number of combinations and played some of the team out of their usual positions. One of these was goalshooter Lenize Potgieter, who played goal attack in the last quarter, and seemed to relish the greater freedom of movement.

“I have told them they all need to be able to play in at least two positions, so that we have greater flexibility,” said Plummer.

“We don’t want to be one-dimensional.”

She said she was happy with the Proteas’ performance, although there were still areas where they needed to improve.

“They still need to let the ball go quicker, and they missed some sitters, but they are getting better all the time,” she said.

She said Zimbabwe suffered from the lack of international exposure, but she thought they would get better as the tournament continued.

“They have some very good players and it is just lack of experience,” she said.

The Zimbabwean captain, Perpetua Siyachitema impressed at wing attack and goalshooter Pauline Jani, sporting long braids in her national colours, had a good game when she could get past Maweni and Mostert.

Earlier, the President’s XII beat Uganda by 55 goals to 50. The South Africans started off well, and were three up before Uganda scored their first goal, but the East African team drew level midway through the quarter, forcing the South Africans to up their game.

The President’s XII led 16-13 after the first quarter, and at one stage were eight goals ahead. The She-Cranes pulled things back with a volley of unanswered goals, but were still five goals behind at halftime. (29-24)

It was in the final quarter that the Ugandans came back strongly, and at one stage they were only one goal behind. They won the quarter by 15 goals to 13, but it was too little, too late.

Their goal attack and captain, Irene Erayu, was outstanding, achieving some brilliant intercepts and shooting accurately. At the other end of the court, Lindie Lombard, who was named player of the match, also had a very good game and goalshooter Ine-Marie Venter grew in confidence throughout the match, shooting from the edge of the circle and making good use of the ball when it was in her circle. Although the She-Cranes threatened, the President’s XII stood firm, and finished the match with a five goal victory.

On Monday, the Proteas play Uganda at 6pm, and the President’s XII take on Zimbabwe at 8pm.