Liverool,United Kingdom – The SPAR Netball Proteas held their nerve to beat the England Roses by 48 goals to 45 in a thrilling match in the SANZEA Quad Series in London on Saturday night.
The Roses turned the ball early in the match and moved into an early lead. At one stage, the Roses were five goals ahead, but in the closing minutes of the first quarter, the Proteas scored five unanswered goals to finish the quarter level on 13 goals apiece.
In the second quarter, South Africa moved to four goals ahead, but England fought back to draw level at 20-all, as a result of some excellent work in the circle by their defenders. Coach Tracy Neville brought Eboni Usoro-Brown on at goal defence, replacing Layla Guscoth, and her impact was felt immediately, although Guscoth came back after halftime. But South Africa once again turned the ball and were 27-23 ahead at the break.
The Roses fought hard in the third quarter and actually outscored the Proteas by 11 goals to 10, but the South Africans kept their noses in front, finishing the quarter with a three- goal lead (37-34).
The final quarter was were the Proteas really held their nerve. The vociferous crowd roared their support for the hosts and buoyed by the support, England scored a flurry of goals to draw level (42-all) and then go ahead. But captain Bongi Msomi’s players were not giving up, and with six minutes left, drew level again, on 42 goals each. Defenders Phumza Maweni and Karla Pretorius did sterling work in limiting the goals scored by the Roses. Msomi and centre Erin Burger kept feeding the ball into the Proteas’ circle, where Lenize Potgieter and Maryka Holtzhausen were as calm as if they were in a training game as they sank ball after ball into the net. England tried in vain to score in the dying minutes, but the Proteas stuck to their task and handed Msomi a welcome birthday present.
“I am very proud of them,” said coach Norma Plummer.
“We have beaten England before, but it is particularly good to know that we have beaten the Commonwealth Games gold medallists. The players fronted up to England and gave as good as they got today. Now it will be a case of trying to get them ready for tomorrow’s match against the New Zealand Silver Ferns.”
“We weren’t able to maintain our rhythm,” said Neville.
“South Africa played very well. We always knew they were a tough team to beat and they certainly proved it tonight.”
Goal defence Karla Pretorius was named Player of the Match but it could as easily have been given to any of her teammates. Potgieter and Holtzhausen easily outscored the England shooters, with Potgieter sinking 34 out of 37 attempts at goal, and Holtzhausen 14 out of 16. The whole team remained calm throughout the match, never allowing the pressure of the partisan crowd to upset them.
The Proteas will go into their final match, against the Silver Ferns tomorrow afternoon, with an extra spring in their step. The Ferns lost to England last weekend, and were beaten 53-50 by Australia on Saturday.
Sunday 20 January (Copper Box, London)
17:30 South Africa vs. New Zealand LIVE SS10
20:00 England vs. Australia LIVE SS10