The main interest in the last round of the Netball Grand Series will focus on the race for the fourth play-off berth between the Ibhayi Gales and the Black Diamonds this weekend.
And to add spice to their respective hopes, these two challengers play the Lightning Roses and the Starlight Jets respectively.
The Roses are unbeaten and first on the log; the Jets are third and vaguely hoping for a second-place finish and a home semi-final. These factors make the challenge of the Diamonds and the Gales that much more challenging.
The Diamonds have it all to do against the Jets. To ensure that the Diamonds make the play-offs, they need a bonus point win. Should the Gales get only a single bonus point and the Diamonds three, there will be a count-out between the two teams where the Diamonds have a point’s differential advantage that will be impossible to turn around.
The Gales don’t necessarily have to win their match. A bonus point loss, plus a bonus point for 45 goals scored, will see them through, regardless of what the Diamonds achieve in their match.
It will be extremely difficult for the Gales, though. The unbeaten Lightning Roses will be primed to retain their record – and in Bloemfontein this is very likely and two bonus points for the Gales unlikely.
Meanwhile the Jets will hope for a home semi-final – and that will mean that the Red Kestrels, blowing hot and cold throughout the competition must beat the Galaxy Blues in Potchefstroom while the Jets win their match against the Diamonds in Kempton Park with a bonus point.
With the return of three of their five World Cup players, the Blues should make sure of second spot and a home semi-final.
Their Proteas captain Amanda Mynhardt and Blues captain and the most capped player in the World Cup squad Leigh-Ann Zackey are being rested. However, even without these two stars, the Blues should secure second spot and a home semi, which will be against the Jets in a week’s time.
This weekend’s fixtures:Saturday, 12 pm: Kingdom Queens v Western Storms, UZ, Bhekuzulu Hall, Richards Bay Saturday, 19 pm: Red Kestrels v Galaxy Blues, NWU, Potchefstroom Sports Hall; Saturday, 20 pm: Lightning Roses v Ibhayi Gales, UFS, Callie Human Hall, Bloemfontein Sunday, 12:00: Starlight Jets v Black Diamonds, Kempton Park Indoor Centre
Log Positions (after Thirteen Rounds):1. Lightning Roses 33 2. Galaxy Blues 27 3. Starlight Jets 25 4. Ibhayi Gales 21 5. Black Diamonds 19 6. Red Kestrels 13 7. Western Storms 10 8. Kingdom Queens 7