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Liverpool, United Kingdom: South Africa’s SPAR Proteas narrowly lost a closely contested semi-final match against the Australian Diamonds at the Netball World Cup In Liverpool on Saturday afternoon. The highly anticipated and contested game ended 55 -53 in favour of defending world champions Australia, with the 2 goal margin being the equal closest Netball World Cup semi-final in history. New Zealand beat Jamaica 55-53 the same score as today in the semi-finals of the 1999 Netball World Cup in Christchurch.

The SPAR Proteas played their first Netball World Cup in 24 years on Saturday, the last time South Africa were in the same position was back in 1995 where they went on win a silver medal.

South Africa went into the semi-final  having had lost only one game against England compared to Australia’s perfect win record in all of their five games leading to the last four. Saturdays semi-final was always going to be an interesting clash between the two teams purely because the Proteas bench led by Norma Plummer and Nicole Cusack who are both Australians knew their opponents very well.

South Africa’s intentions were very clear from the first whistle and they made to convert as early as the first minute of the opening quarter. The Aussies were quick to find their rhythm and got into the game as early as possible. Towards the end of the first quarter it was Australian that took a slight lead due to three unforced errors and a smart turn around by Australia. However that didn’t deter South Africa who fought hard to regain control of the game. It was Australia who took a 14 – 10 lead into the first break.

The start of the second quarter saw South Africa pushing themselves in an attempt to catch us with the Aussies, a few quick opportunities were converted by the SPAR Proteas however the Diamonds were quick in responding to that and at the end the second quarter and after to further unforced errors by South Africa, Australia led 31 – 23 going into the half time break. 

Shadine van der Merwe made way for Khanyisa Chawane at the start of the third quarter, Chawane had an outstanding game against England, the coach was hoping for that again on Saturday. The SPAR Proteas held nothing back and threw everything they had at the Diamonds. South Africa seemed to be winning the battle and managed to draw the quarter with Australia 26 all. The Aussies however went onto the third quarter break with a four goal lead 43 -39.

The SPAR Proteas really stood a chance of levelling the game in the start of the final quarter however a few handling errors and possession turnover worked against them. This was a close game as South Africa really came back and fought very hard, they gave the Diamonds a run for their money. Towards the end of the quarter, South Africa were a point away from drawing this game, because it was such a tight game, two point swing came to the party and work very well for the Aussies who made sure that they converted every chance that the SPAR Proteas missed.

“As a team we are very proud of what we have achieved in this tournament, I think we have dover very well. We played against the world’s number one and matched them pound for pound. I think the team should be very proud. We are grateful to Ma (Coach Norma) and her entire coaching team for doing such great work with us. We are a better team now. Of course, we are disappointed with the loss however happy with where we are as a team,” said SPAR Proteas goal shooter Lenize Potgieter.

This was the closest defeat South Africa have suffered against Australia with the previous closets defeat being 54 – 50 at the 2018 Quad Series in London.

Lisa Alexander, Australian coach had full praise for the SPAR Proteas … “I just want to say congratulations to South Africa, they have really come a long way and we respect them so much, this was evident in how we came onto the field against them. The team we put in today was specifically to counter them because we knew how dangerous they can be if not properly managed. This South African team has come a long way and they should be proud.”

Norma Plummer, SPAR Proteas Head Coach commented after the game “I am sad that we lost against Australia, we started very well but somewhat lost our grip shortly after. We managed to recover and pushed the Aussies right to the end. We came very close to drawing this game. I mean we won the last two quarters if my maths is accurate, we just needed that last push to steal it away from them. Congratulations to Lisa and all the best in the final. To my girls, well done you have very well, and we have come this far. It is back to us preparing for our game tomorrow. We promised the people of South Africa a medal, so we now need to deliver on that,”

South Africa will play in the 3rd/4th play offs tomorrow (15h30 SA time) for a bronze medal against the losing team from the England/New Zealand game.