Host province KwaZulu Natal (KZN) came close to causing the first upset at the SPAR national netball championships at Hoy Park, Durban on Monday.
North West pulled out the stops in the final quarter to beat KZN 40-35, and retain their status as one of the teams to beat at the tournament.
KZN won the first quarter by one goal (12-11), but North West fought back in the second quarter to lead 22-18 at halftime. The coastal team came back strongly, outscoring North West 10-6 in the third quarter, before North West clinched matters in the final 15 minutes.
Most of the top teams have been hard hit by the absence of their SPAR Protea players, who are not playing in the nationals, and KZN and North West were both affected.
The match was hard and very physical, and North West captain Chante Bester said it had been an ideal start to their campaign.
‘We knew it was going to be very physical, so we were prepared for that. We didn’t expect it to be such a close game, though,’ she said.
‘But a hard game like this sets us up for the matches to come.’
Coach Dorette Badenhorst agreed. ‘They really pushed us,’ she said. ‘I didn’t expect us to be level on 28-all after the third quarter. But the important thing was they stepped up and did everything they needed to do to win the match.’
She said she had some young players in the team who were still finding their feet at the senior level, but she was happy with the way they were responding.
‘We had a very inexperienced goal circle, but goalshooter Anje Esterhuizen and Melandi Pretorius did well. It is very important for the more experienced players to back them up and give them the confidence to do their best.’
Last year’s runners-up, Free State, made short work of Eastern Cape, beating them 55-27, after leading 30-17 at halftime.
Free State coach Burta de Kock said she was pleased to have been able to play all 12 members of the team.
‘We have to get used to being without some of our stars, like goal defender Karla Mostert and so we need to develop the younger players,’ she said.
‘We’ll be without Karla again next year, because she has signed for another year with the Sunshine Coast Lightings in the Australian Super league. But I’m happy that we have the players to take over from the senior stars.’
In other A-section matches played on Monday, defending champions Western Cape thrashed Mpumalanga 58-17 and Gauteng beat Northern Cape 49-28.
Picture of Western Cape’s Nicole Taljaard battling it out against Mpumalanga courtesy of Reg Caldecott
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS – DAY ONE RESULTS
Senior Section A
North West 40 KZN 35; Free State 55 E Cape 27; W Cape 58 Mpumalanga 17; Gauteng 49 N Cape 28
Senior Section B
Limpopo 61 Mpumalanga 27; Gauteng 45 SANDF 17; W Cape 60 N Cape 4; KZN 51 Royal Bafokeng 25
Under 21 Section A
W Cape 42 Free State 27;E Cape 46 Limpopo 11; North West 64 KZN 32; Gauteng 50 Free State 35
Under 21 Section B
W Cape 40 Royal Bafokeng 23; Royal Bafokeng 53 N Cape 18; W Cape 30 Limpopo 25; Mpumalanga 57 N Cape 14; North West 49 KZN 41; KZN 75 N Cape13; Free State 60 Mpumalanga 19; Limpopo 52 N Cape 15