The victorious SPAR Protea team with team management and the Honourable Sports Minister, Mr Mbalula, after their emphatic win of the inaugural Diamond Challenge, at the Heartfelt Arena in Thaba Tshwane, Pretoria, on Saturday 18 August. South Africa established themselves as the top netball team in Africa, beating arch-rivals Malawi 47-43 in the climatic final. Photo: Reg Caldecott / Gallo Images

Watched by Sports Minister Fikile Mbablu and his Malawian counterpart, Justin Saidi, as well as Olympic canoeing bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley, the teams put on an outstanding display of international netball.

While the honours were even early in the match, the Malawians looked to have the upper hand as they dominated possession. Both teams made nervous errors, but Malawi edged narrowly ahead with a 12-10 lead at the first break.

In the second quarter, the Proteas held their own but Malawi still held a one goal advantage at half-time, with the scores at 23-22. Chrisna Bootha turned the game around in the third quarter.

Player of the Tournament, and Most Accurate Shooter, Malawi’s Mwai Kumwenda in action during the final match of the Diamond Challenge. Photo: Reg Caldecott / Gallo Images

Having missed the first two matches of the tournament with flu, Bootha arrived at the courts alone, early in the morning, and worked on her shooting before the final. It paid off, and the goal shooter broke into a rare smile when the SPAR Proteas held a six-goal lead midway through the third quarter.

A rare mistake in the circle allowed Malawi back into the game but the Proteas refocused quickly, outscoring their opponents by 14 points to nine in the third period.

Malawi pulled it back in the final fifteen minutes and kept the home side on their toes by picking up the pace. Mwai Kumwenda’s experience showed as the Malawian shooter was impressive with her quick handling of the ball.

It was a tense final few minutes with only one point separating the sides, but South Africa held their nerve to lift the trophy.

Bootha’s final statistics showed a 90 percent accuracy in her shooting, while Kumwenda was far and away the shooter of the tournament, scoring 39 from 41 attempts. SPAR Proteas captain Zanele Mdodana said she was still replaying the final moments in her head. “It was such a phenomenal win and I am so delighted, I don’t know what else to say,” Mdodana said.

An overwhelmed SPAR Proteas captain Zanele Mdodana shares her joy with fellow team player Maryka Holtzhausen after their win against Malawi on the final day of the Diamond Challenge. Photo: Reg Caldecott / Gallo Images

“To see the girls fighting right to the end was fantastic. “Last night we said we had to raise the bar and we were not going to lose to Malawi twice in a row. “Now we are walking on top of a mountain.”

Mdodana said it was a team effort and the coaching staff, Elize Kotze and assistant Lana Krige, deserved praise as they had more belief in the players than they had in themselves. “It’s about time South Africa were back as the best team in Africa,” said Kotze. “It will always be a tough encounter against Malawi and I cannot ever imagine playing them and having an easy game.

“The score could have been higher, but considering Chrisna (Bootha) was not supposed to be on the court and Maryka Holtzhausen, our goal attack, had a stomach bug, I can’t complain.

“I saw something out there today which pleased me more than anything – the commitment, and the fact that the girls would put anything on the line to win.”

Members of the SPAR Protea netball team wave to their fans after their win against Malawi in the Diamond Challenge played at the Heartfelt Arena on Saturday. Photo: Reg Caldecott / Gallo Images

The SPAR Proteas had every reason to celebrate after they beat Malawi in the final of the Diamond Challenge in a spectacular display of netball on Saturday. Unable to contain their joy after the final whistle, the SPAR Proteas ran around the court in celebration, hugging each other and overcome with emotion.

Whilst the verdict is still to be confirmed as to whether this match will raise South Africa’s ranking to top in Africa, beating their African nemesis was enough for the Protea team today.

For more coverage of the series, view You Tube uploads at southafricanetball, follow the matches on twitter using #DiamondChallenge @SANetball or @TashZoe, and visit the Diamond Challenge website.

 

SPAR Proteas:
GK Vanes-Mari du Toit
GD Karla Mosert
WD Bongiwe Msomi
C Thuli Qegu
WA Zanele Mdodana
GA Maryke Holtzhausen
GS Chrisna Bootha
Reserves:
Precious Mthembu
Anneret Viljoen
Adele Niemand
Nosiphiwo Goda
Melissa Myburgh
 
Malawi:
GK Towera Vinkhumbo
GD Caroline Mtukule
WD Grace Mwafulirwa
C Bridget Kumwenda
WA Beatrice Mpinganjira
GA Sindi Simtowe
GS Mwai Kumwenda
Reserves:
Lorren Ngwira
Joanna Dzirimbire Kachilika
Tina Kamuyambeni
Thandie Mwale Galleta
Joyce Mvula
 
 
Fixtures and Results at the inaugural Netball SA Diamond Challenge:
Wednesday 15 August:
Malawi 75-32 Zambia
South Africa 55-26 Botswana
Thursday 16 August:
Malawi 63-29 Botswana
South Africa 47-34 Zambia
Friday 17 August:
Botswana 59-41 Zambia
Malawi 47-42 South Africa
Saturday 18 Aug:
11:50 – 13:25 Botswana v Zambia
13:25 – 15:00 SPAR Protea South Africa v Malawi Queens