After just three games, the growth in the SPAR South African National Netball team is evident. Going into the Quad Series knowing it was going to be tough, the South African side knew that they were going to have to pull out all the stops if they wanted to play competitively against the top three netball nations in the world. Playing England at the Allphones Arena in Sydney on Sunday, they did just that.
Starting with a bang, the first quarter showed that the SPAR Proteas had their eyes on the prize, and that they would not be intimidated by the England team. Although not first to score, the Proteas were quick to take the lead, and started to find the gaps in the England attack. England recovered quickly and the score evened out a few times.
Once again, the ‘Tiger’ of the SA side, Bongi Msomi, was a critical player in driving the ball down the court. Hitting double figures for the first time in a quarter of the Quad Series, the SPAR Proteas finished just one goal behind England at the end of the first quarter, 12-13.
An explosive second quarter showed the Proteas in their prime, as they dominated ball possession and ran away with the lead. Having Amanda Mynhardt back on court (who was recovering from a thigh injury) seemed to bring confidence to the defence of the South African side, and the combination of Bongiwe Msomi, Maryka Holtzhausen and Nadia Uys on attack enabled the Proteas to control the pace for much of the second quarter.
Chrisna Bootha had a fantastic game, and was a critical part to the lead of the SA side, shooting with 95% accuracy. Although having a five goal lead at one stage of the second quarter, the England team fought back hard and lessened the gap, ending behind South Africa at half time 25- 27.
After a bit of a talking to by their coach Anna Mayes at half time, England upped their intensity in the third quarter and overtook South Africa by 3 goals in the first 4 minutes. However, it didn’t take long for the SPAR Proteas to equally up their game, and even out the score to 36-all with just over 5 minutes left of that quarter.
The SPAR Proteas were playing faster down their attack line, and well on the defensive, but the experience of the England side started to show when Holtzhausen was left baffled by a very quick defensive back play on her shot at goal, and the stealth of the England side in getting the ball into their goal circle. England snuck ahead with a final third quarter score of 44-39.
England managed to maintain their 5 goal lead for much of the last quarter, as the SPAR Proteas battled on. Not willing to give up, the South African side continued to fight up until the last minute, but the England side were just too strong. South Africa lost by 9 goals, and the game ended with an England win of 62-53.
“We had a great first half” said SPAR Proteas Captain Mynhardt after the game. “There was some really good play on court today. Our ball possession was good and we were a lot more patient, which was great to see. The team has really grown and we will continue to grow. The Quad Series is the perfect opportunity to concentrate on our growth as individual players and as a team.”
One player in particular who has shown a lot of growth is South African Goal Shooter Bootha, who achieved her best goal scoring average to date in the match today, and is the highest scoring individual in the Quad Series thus far.
“She has matured fantastically” said Coach Elize Kotze when asked to comment on Bootha during the game, “She has a lot of potential, and is one of the strongholds in our team.”
The SPAR Proteas take on the Australian Diamonds in their next match on Thursday 25 October in Wellington New Zealand.