The last day of the fourth round of the Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League at the Bellville Velodrome on Sunday proved to be a good day for the minnows.
The two teams at the bottom of the log lost their matches, but they both gave a very good account of themselves against much stronger teams.The Eastern Cape Aloes beat the Diamonds 63-33, but the Northern Cape side pushed hard in the first half, and won the second quarter by 13 goals to 10. It was the first quarter they have won this year.
Aloes coach Des Neville made wholesale changes as she tried out different combinations.
Both sides managed to overturn the ball and the circle battles were fierce, although the Aloes are without their Proteas goalkeeper, Jeanie Steyn, who has a foot injury after being knocked off her scooter.
Diamonds coach Maria Maiya said she was very proud of the way the team performed. ‘I think we are finally getting the combinations right and things are coming together,’ she said.
‘Our big problem is a lack of fitness, and also the vast distances we have to travel mean that team practices are hard to arrange, with half the players in Kuruman and others in Kimberley. But we are having a practice session on Friday before travelling to Cape Town for our match against the Mpumalanga Sunbirds.’
Neville said she had been impressed by the Diamonds’ commitment and intensity. ‘Even the weaker teams get better as the tournament goes on and they have more match practice,’ she said. ‘I wasn’t surprised, but I was pleased that they gave us a hard time.’
Referring to her own team, she said she had been particularly pleased that Lauren-Lee Christians, who joined the Aloes from the Crinums, appeared to be settling down to a different playing style.
‘I think she’s finally finding her feet, and I was very happy with the way she and Arne Rust worked together at centre and wing attack respectively. We’ll be taking a lot of confidence from this weekend as we prepare for our match against the Fireballs next weekend,’ said Neville.
The Sunbirds gave the defending champions, the Free State Crinums, a run for their money. The Crinums won 64-34, but the Sunbirds made them work hard for their goals. Their defenders, Chandi Venter and Palesa Mbokwane, showed scant respect for the reputations of the Crinums attack, including Proteas captain and goal attack Maryka Holtzhausen, and succeeded with a number of turnovers and rebounds.
The Crinums were outstanding. Tanya Mostert was an effective centre, controlling the centre court and ensuring the ball made its way to the Crinums’ circle. She was named player of the match for her efforts. Alicia Puren, who normally plays goalkeeper, revelled in the added freedom and responsibility of playing goal attack.
Sunbirds coach Marlie Nel was proud of her team. ‘They kept on fighting and if something didn’t work out, they made another plan,’ she said.
‘They weren’t overawed by playing the champions – they felt they had something to prove and I think they did that. We will go home now and prepare for our match against the Diamonds next week – it’s a very important game for both teams. I hope to use the match as a confidence booster for our next game against the Kingdom Stars.’
Crinums coach Burta de Kock also praised the Sunbirds. ‘I thought they played well, and we had to work hard. It was good to see them fighting and forcing us to change our plans.’
Puren said it had been a very enjoyable game. ‘It was very physical, but we’re not scared of that. They kept coming at us, and never gave up.’
In the picture, Arné Rust of the Eastern Cape Aloes is challenged by Lebo Kgomoeadira of the Northern Cape Diamond. Picture courtesy of Chris Ricco/BackpagePix.
WEEK FOUR RESULTS
Limpopo Baobabs 28 FS Crinums 74
Gauteng Jaguars 46 Southern Stings 42
Gauteng Jaguars 62 Mpumalanga Sunbirds 38
NC Diamonds 17 Southern Stings 73
EC Aloes 38 Gauteng Jaguars 67
NW Flames 55 Kingdom Stars 37
FS Crinums 64 MP Sunbirds 34
EC Aloes 63 NC Diamonds 33
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