Spar Proteas vice-captain Zanele Mdodana defends Proteas possession while her team moves into attack in action against the Sunshine Girls, during the first of three tests against Jamaica, on Friday, 15 June 2012. Despite an improvement in results against Jamaica, the South Africans lost the opening encounter 63-48. “This is three tests, we have only played one and we can improve with the rest and I am sure after tonight’s game, Elize and Lana will work on us improving. My team are ready to step it up going into Sunday,” said Protea captain, Amanda Mynhardt. Photo: Collin Reid

It was never going to be easy for the Spar Protea netball team as they took on hometown favourites Jamaica in the first of three tests on Friday evening in the Jamaican capital, Kingston.

It was a tough, fast and very physical encounter between the Proteas and the Sunshine Girls with the home team winning 63-48.

“At least we halved the score from our last encounter against Jamaica at the World Championships last year, where they beat us 64-37,” said Protea coach, Elize Kotze. “That’s the positive, and I always look for the positives after a loss.

Goal shooter Chrisna Bootha fights for the ball during the first test against the Sunshine Girls in Jamaica on 15 June 2012. “The Shooter (Chrisna Bootha) gave us a lot of problems and that is something we have to look at and make some adjustments,” said Jamaican coach, Oberon Pitterson-Nattie. “South Africa were very aggressive on both defensive and offensive sides, that is something they have to be proud of.” Photo: Collin Reid“We had enough ball possession to secure this match. We did an extremely good job on defence. Both defenders Vanes-Mari du Toit and Amanda Mynhardt did well on goal keeper and our new cap Anneret Viljoen (goal defence), Erin Burger (centre) and Thuli Qegu (wing defence) played a solid role tonight,” continued Kotze.

The packed stadium was loud and vocal, and gave the Sunshine Girls incredible support throughout a high-scoring first quarter that saw a brilliant start by the Proteas, moving the ball swiftly from centre to circle like seasoned pros and opening the scoring.

But the strong start was cut short by Jamaica who intercepted brilliantly with captain Nadine Bryan, in particular, creating plenty of opportunity for her team. The Jamaican shooters were on target and by the end of the first quarter, the Sunshine Girls were leading 17-12.

Going into the second quarter, Kotze made one substitution replacing captain Mynhardt with new cap Viljoen. The Proteas played a solid second quarter but once again the Jamaican intercepting was on target and the Proteas gave away plenty of opportunities.

However the Proteas held on to hold the Jamaican’s to a 14-14 draw quarter score.

Mynhardt returned to court in the third quarter with a heavily strapped thigh, and her strong leadership was evident as she led the Proteas to within three points of Jamaica. But once again the Sunshine Girls regrouped, and “silly mistakes” by South Africa cost them, and the Jamaican team won the quarter 16-13.

In the final quarter, Kotze brought on fresh legs in Bongi Msomi and Precious Mthembu. However, edged on by the partisan crowd, the Jamaican outfit stepped up their game and scored five consecutive goals to give them a 13-point lead with eight minutes remaining.

This put added pressure on the Proteas who struggled to minimise the deficit and lost the quarter 9-16.

“We need to work on our discipline when we have ball possession,” said Kotze. “We made too many unforced errors and it’s very important to capitalise on ball in hand, an area we need to have more discipline on. We had more than enough turn over and ball possession to secure the game.”

Jamaican coach, Oberon PItterson-Nattie said she was delighted with her team’s performance. “I am very comfortable and I was happy with their performance. It wasn’t perfect but they had good spirit, at times they failed to do a lot of things especially moving the ball well and placing the ball in the circle.”

The second test will take place Sunday 17 June with the third and final test taking place Tuesday 19 June.