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There was heartbreak for the Southern Stings in their crucial match against the   the Free State Crinums, in their Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League (NPL) match at the Ellis Park Indoor Arena on Saturday night, when the defending champions came from behind to win by one goal.

The Stings were in the lead for most of the match.  At halftime, they were 17-13 ahead. For most of the second half, the Crinums were two goals behind, but with just over three minutes left, the Crinums drew level for the first time, on 30-all. The Stings scored again, and the Crinums drew level.  With seconds to go, Karla Mostert, back from playing in the English Super League, got the ball and passed to Maryke Holtzhausen, who took a running shot at the goal. The ball dropped in the net and the crowd, which had got behind the Crinums, erupted. The final score was 32-31.

The match was fast and furious, with both teams playing at a very high intensity.  The defenders on both sides did superbly.  The Stings’ goal defence, Rochelle Lawson, was named player of the match, but it could have gone to any of the four defenders.

“It was the toughest game of my life,” said Lawson.

“To come from winning and then lose in the final moments is heartbreaking. I would happily exchange my player of the match trophy for a win.”

Stings coach Annelie Lucas said she was very proud of her team.

“The players did well.  There were a few basic errors and you can’t be too disappointed when you’ve played in a game like that.

“Our loss means we don’t go straight through to the semifinals, but on the positive side, we have some more game time to prepare,” she said.

Holtzhausen said she practiced the running shot at goal, but had not expected to have to use it in a crucial situation such as this.

“We started quite slowly, but we’ve been in tough situations before so we didn’t panic.  The crowd got behind us, and that was fantastic,” she said.

“This is why we play netball – to play in matches like this.  It is far more satisfying than winning by 20 goals.”

The Stings’ loss means the Gauteng Jaguars go straight through to the semifinals in Durban next week.

In the final match of the day, the North West Flames retained their unbeaten record in the tournament with a decisive 65-48 victory over the Golden Fireballs. The Fireballs managed to keep close for the first quarter, after which the Flames just pulled away inexorably.  The Flames also go straight through to the semifinals.

“I was very happy with the start, because we haven’t been starting well,” said Fireballs coach Elsje Jordaan.

“But we let it slip in the second, and weren’t able to make up the lost ground. We created chances, but couldn’t capitalise on them.”

Flames coach Dorette Badenhorst said the Fireballs were not an easy team to play against.

“We had a brilliant second quarter, which we won by 19 goals to eight. I made some changes and they worked well.”

Earlier, the Jaguars welcomed back their Proteas goalshooter, Lenise Potgieter, who also returned home this week from playing in the English Super League.

The Stars started off very well, and for most of the first quarter, they traded goal for goal, with the Jaguars edging ahead 11-9 at the end of the quarter. After that, the Stars, playing as many Proteas as the Jaguars, seemed to lose focus and the Jaguars pulled away from them.  By halftime, the Jaguars had a 26-18 lead, and they extended that as the match went on.

The Eastern Cape Aloes beat a vastly improved Limpopo Baobabs  55-36 in the second match of the day.  Although the Aloes held the lead throughout the game, the Baobabs looked more in control and more creative than the previous week, when they had a demoralizing 79-28 loss to the North West Flames.

Player of the match, the Baobabs wing attack, Sylvia Lebelo, said the team had come to a point where they just knew they had to do better.

“We set goals for ourselves and worked hard to reach those goals.  We also listened better to what our coach. Cecilia Molokwane, was telling us, and we followed her instructions,” she said.

“The Baobabs played well,” said Aloes coach Des Neville.

“I was pleased with my team’s intensity, which they maintained throughout the match.  They are beginning to trust each other and to play as a team.  Next year we will have to make sure that they get together more beforehand.”

The tournament moves to Durban next week, for the quarterfinals and semifinals.  The bottom four teams will play for positions seven to 10.