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Durban, South Africa – After a lacklustre start, the SPAR Proteas stepped up a gear and beat the President’s XII comfortably, by 56 goals to 35, in their Diamond Challenge match at the University of Durban-Westville on Tuesday night.

With nothing to lose, the President’s XII got off to a terrific start, and were 12-10 ahead at the end of the first quarter. Coach Norma Plummer had strong words with her team during the break, and the Proteas came back strongly in the second quarter, drawing level in the first three minutes and extending their lead as the match went on. They were 26-20 ahead at halftime, and they just got better and better.

Erin Burger, playing her 91st game for South Africa, showed her class with some outstanding intercepts, and feisty goal attack Renske Stoltz combined well, first with her provincial teammate, Sigi Burger and then with Lenize Potgieter to keep the goals flowing. At the other end of the court, Phumza Mawena made life difficult for the President’s XII shooters, although Lindie Lombard had a good game.

Coach Norma Plummer said she had expected the President’s XII to start well, and she was pleased the Proteas had come back so strongly.

“It was a very good match,” she said.

“It was good to see how well the President’s XII played. There are players there who are knocking on the door and the Proteas are aware that they can’t be complacent.

“It is important to have a strong underpinning, so that if a player is injured, there is someone ready to take her place without skipping a beat,” said Plummer.

“The President’s XII have shown they are ready.”

Earlier, Zimbabwe, who are ranked 21st in the world, caused an upset when they beat Uganda, ranked eighth, 42-39. Zimbabwe went into the lead from the middle of the first quarter, and in the second quarter, outscored Uganda by 12 goals to seven to lead 23-17 at halftime. Their performance in the second quarter proved decisive, because Uganda won the third and fourth quarters, 11-9 and 11-10, but Zimbabwe’s six-goal cushion at halftime saw them through to victory.

The Zimbabwean captain Perpetua Siyachitema was once again outstanding at wing defence, as was player of the match Pauline Jani, the Zimbabwean goalshooter.

Their victory means Zimbabwe will play the SPAR Proteas in the final on Wednesday night. Although the President’s XII won more round robin matches, as an unranked team they are not allowed to play in the final of an official tournament.