The Free State Crinums held their nerve to win the inaugural Brutal Fruit Netball Cup, beating the Gauteng North Jaguars 40-36 in a final that went into extra time on Sunday.
(Click here to visit the tournament website, and scroll down for the tournament semi-final and final match results)
The match was a thriller throughout, with both teams giving their all, and it was only in the last few minutes of extra time that the experienced Crinums were able to get away from the young Jaguars team.
The Crinums were 16-14 ahead at halftime, and after the third quarter, they were still two goals to the good, but the Jaguars came back hard in the final quarter, scoring five unanswered goals to draw level on 28 all. The goals were going according to the centre pass, until the Jaguars went into the lead for the first time with just a minute to go to the final whistle.
They tried to run down the clock, throwing the ball around in the centre court, until an over-enthusiastic long pass was snatched up by the Crinums, who swiftly moved to their own end, where their captain and goal attack, Maryke Holtzhausen, scored a brilliant goal from the edge of the circle to equalise, 31-all, with just seconds before fulltime.
The match went into extra time, seven minutes each way, and the teams exchanged goal for goal, finishing level on 35-all after the first period of extra time. It was in the last seven minutes that the Crinums’ greater experience came to the fore.
The Jaguars had lost their zip, and although they threw everything they had at the Crinums, the Free State team held their nerve and the two experienced Spar Protea defenders, Karla Mostert and Adele Niemand, were able to steal the ball from the Jaguars shooters, Melissa Myburgh and Lindie Lombard, who managed only one goal in the last seven minutes.
Holtzhausen and Rieze Straeuli, on the other hand, scored five, and by the time there were only two minutes on the clock, it was clear that the Crinums had won.
“It was a wonderful final – that’s what a final should be,” said a beaming Holtzhausen. “We thought we had let it slip away from us, and then they made a tactical error and we were able to steal the ball and equalise.
“When we went into extra time, we were psyched up and we knew we were going to win, because the Jaguars were down after letting the game get away from them.”
Holtzhausen praised the Jaguars, saying they had been an outstanding team throughout the competition. “Their team cohesion was fantastic, and each time we played them, we struggled to break that cohesion.
“They are young and they are just going to get better and better,” she said.
Stings Crush Aloes for Promotion to Division 1
In the earlier action of the day, the Southern Stings won promotion to the first division by thrashing the Eastern Aloes 52-40 in the promotion/relegation match.
The Stings, who were crowned Netball Shield champions on Saturday night, sailed through all their league matches, and maintained throughout that they belonged in the first division, and their performance on Sunday underlined that.
They went into the lead from the start of the match, and maintained that lead throughout, except for a few minutes in the second half.
The Aloes fought back from a six-goal deficit after the first quarter to draw level on 22-all at halftime, and they briefly took the lead eight minutes into the second half., But the Western Cape side stepped up a gear and turned the screws on their Eastern Cape opponents, who wilted under the pressure. After the third quarter, the Stings were 35-31 ahead, and in the final quarter, the Aloes were all at sea.
The Stings defensive pair of Rochelle Lawson and Phumza Maweni were outstanding, and kept the Aloes shooters, Dumisani Chauke and Zandile Njeza in check. The Aloes appeared to panic at times, with wild, long passes that bounced out of court, ending up in the Stings’ hands.
“I think we played well and we deserved to win,” said Stings coach Bennie Saayman. “The difference between the two teams was that the Stings were more disciplined and played constructive netball, in defence as well as in attack.
“We knew this would be a tough match, but the players believed in themselves and their ability to win. They have gone through the whole tournament without losing a match, and now they can prove themselves against the best teams in the country.”
Aloes’ coach Maryka Allaway said she was naturally very disappointed, but she thought the Stings’ victory was well-deserved.
“They’re on the top of their game right now, and we were never in command of the match. We were always having to play catch-up, and ultimately we just couldn’t do it. But it has been a wonderful tournament and we will come back strongly next year.”
Results of the Final Round of the 2014 Brutal Fruit Netball Cup: Saturday 7 June: Division 2 Semi-Final 1: KZN Kingdom Stars 52-48 Northern Cape Diamonds Division 2 Semi-Final 2: Western Cape Southern Stings 65-17 Limpopo Baobabs Division 1 Semi-Final 1: Free State Crinums 42-39 Gauteng Golden Fireballs Division 2 Semi-Final 1: Gauteng Jaguars 51-49 North West Flames Division 2 Final: KZN Kingdom Stars 31-39 Western Cape Southern Stings Sunday 8 June: Promotion/Relegation Match: Western Cape Southern Stings 52-40 Eastern Cape Aloes Brutal Fruit Netball Cup Final: Free State Crinums 40-36 Gauteng Jaguars
Photo 1 caption: The Free State Crinums celebrate their victory in the maiden Brutal Fruit Netball Cup final, a 40-36 win over the Gauteng Jaguars at the University of Pretoria’s Sports Centre Rembrandt Hall on Sunday, 8 June, 2014. Photo: Minister Fikile Mbalula on Twitter
Photo 2 caption: Maryka Holtzhausen is hoisted high as the Free State Crinums celebrate their remarkable victory. Photo: Catherine Kotze/SASPA
(With editing by gsport)