The Limpopo Baobabs set up a grudge match with the Kingdom Stars with a narrow 50-47 victory over the Mpumalanga Sunbirds in their Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League match at the Mangaung Indoor Arena on Saturday. The Baobabs drew with the Stars in their round robin match, when the Stars came from behind to draw level in the last minutes of their match.
The Mpumalanga Sunbirds have grown throughout the tournament, and the Baobabs had to fight for every goal. Although they led for most of the match, the Sunbirds won the second and final quarters. In the dying minutes of the match, the Baobabs tossed the ball around to keep the Sunbirds from scoring. “It was their secret plan,” said Baobabs coach Dumisani Chauke. “I have always told them the team with possession is in control, and they took that to heart.
“We are looking forward to playing the Stars tomorrow – we believe we can beat them. But whatever happens, we have improved our position. We have always finished last, and tomorrow we play for seventh position.” Marlie Nel, the Sunbirds coach, was visibly disappointed, although she was proud of the way her team had played. “Our defence and attack were both going well, and then our centre started developing cramps in her legs, and I had to take her off. Removing such a key player disrupted the rest of the team,” she said.
The Stars barely raised a sweat in demolishing the Northern Cape Diamonds 66-26. The Stars, who finished in fifth position last year, have had a disappointing tournament this year, but they came out strongly against the Diamonds, who have not won a match this year. The teams were level for the first three minutes, but then the Stars, who have two Proteas in their team, started pulling away. By halftime, they were 20 points ahead, (34-14) and they continued to pile on the pressure. The Diamonds fought hard, but were outclassed.
“We were a bit shaky at the start, but then we got our rhythm and started to play better,” said Stars wing defence and captain, Precious Mthembu, who was named Player of the Match. Coach Madri Maritz said their combinations had worked well and their defence had been effective. “We would like to play the Baobabs in our play-off for seventh place tomorrow. We drew with them earlier in the tournament, and we have a point to prove,” said Maritz. Maria Maiya, coach of the Diamonds, bemoaned the poor passes and unforced errors that had cost her team dearly.
“We will have to focus more when we play our last match tomorrow,” she said.