For the first time in 28 years on Tuesday, South Africa beat Jamaica in an international netball test match. Spar South Africa beat Jamaica 56-49 in the third and final test played in Kingston, Jamaica. Jamaica however won the test series 2-1.
Inspired by the late Whitney Houston hit, “The Greatest Love of All”, the Spar Proteas walked onto court on Sunday with a greater belief in themselves, and gained immediate respect from not only their opponents but also the crowd. It was obvious that the Proteas had regrouped since the last test on Sunday, and looked a confident and collected team.
“I was really disappointed after the last test,” admitted Protea Coach, Elize Kotze. “I was hard on the girls and told them that they had to believe in themselves, and if they did they would believe in the team and play as a strong unit.”
The inspiration seemed to work as the Proteas played a consistently aggressive attacking game throughout all four quarters, allowing only a limited attack by the Sunshine Girls.
The first quarter was a dream start for the fired-up Spar Proteas, who turned two balls early on and lead 4-0 within three minutes of the game’s start. The Proteas fought hard and in a real physical first half, the visitors had doubled their lead to 12-6 with 4 minutes remaining in the half.
The brilliant combination of Amanda Mynhardt (Goal Defence) and Vanes-Mari du Toit (Goal Keeper) restricted the tall star Jamaican shooter Shanielle Fowler, who was clearly frustrated by the South African’s tactics. At the end of the entertaining first quarter South Africa led 17-13.
The Proteas made a strong second half start and turned around four balls to take a 22-15 lead. Erin Burger at Centre played a brilliant part with Nokuthula Qequ (Wing Defence) in moving the ball swiftly from centre to circle and Goal Shooter, Chrisna Bootha, was well on target in the circle.
But the Sunshine Girls are never to be written off. Their popular captain Nadine Bryan, playing in her 100th test, made two crucial interceptions which seemed to throw the Proteas slightly off course. The Proteas lost the second quarter 13-14, diminishing their lead to 30-27 by the half-time whistle.
“We had to look hard at ourselves at the break,” said Jamaican captain, Nadine Bryan. “I told my girls that the last two quarters were going to be tough, and they had better be ready for the battle. South Africa played the final two quarters like their lives depended on it, and I must applaud them for their incredible fight …. They won battle, but I am pleased we won the war.”
After the half-time break, there was a very different Sunshine Girls team that took to court. The hometown favourites stepped up a gear and six minutes into the third quarter they had equalled the score for the first time in the game, at 30-30. They turned the ball around, intercepted and rattled the South Africans, and were soon five goals in the lead.
A switch by Kotze replacing a struggling vice-captain, Zanele Mdodana with Bongi Mthembu didn’t seem to give the Proteas any advantage. The Jamaicans ran away with the third quarter, winning it 17 -18, and lead overall 44-38 going into the final quarter.
In the final quarter, the Spar Proteas gave it their all. It was a brave performance and a much higher intensity amongst the South African players was evident on court, compared to the previous two tests. The star of the Jamaican side, Fowler, was replaced by new cap Vanessa Walker after injuring her ankle and back in a tussle for ball with Vanes-Mari du Toit.
After five minutes into the quarter the Proteas levelled at 44-44 and then the visitors found new life. Brilliant combinations and great goal shooting saw the Proteas take a five-point lead (50-45).
A desperate Jamaican Coach, Oberon Pitterson-Nattie decided to bring Fowler back on, and to thunderous applause the giant shooter returned to court with her ankle heavily strapped. Fowler, despite injured, gave the home side hope, and her athleticism helped restore some order to the battered Jamaican side.
However the Proteas sensed victory and kept their composure, keeping on the attack with Maryka Holtzhausen (Goal Attack) netting two goals from the base of the circle with minutes to spare.
The Proteas won the final quarter 18-5 and the test 56-49. The last minutes were loud and raucous, and all credit to the players who managed to maintain their composure despite the noise.
“What a win, what a performance, I am so proud of my girls!” said Kotze. “This win could be the start of new and great things for the team and netball in South Africa.”
Elize Kotze, Proteas Coach made a change to her starting line up by switching captain Amanda Mynhardt to Goal Defence and Vanes-Mari du Toit to Goal Keeper. “I thought hard about what would be best for the team. I think the changes made a difference.
“Fowler the star Goal Shooter was clearly troubled, and I have said all along she is key to the team. My girls did well to take the gentle giant.”
Oberon Pitterson-Nattie, the Jamaican Coach gave full praise to South Africa. “The South African girls were organised and came at us hard, and really made a brilliant comeback in this test. I have said it before and I say it again, South Africa should be in the top three of world netball. They are tough and really talented. I was very proud of my girls winning the series against such a fantastic team.”
A glowing Protea captain, Amanda Mynhardt said that the win meant the world to her and her team. “We really have been working so hard for this win and we needed it. It came at the right time and we will take a lot from the win going forward. Each one of us is proud tonight, proud for ourselves and proud for our country. We believed in ourselves individually and that spilt over to us believing in our team and the team’s effort. ”