Champions back on track

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It was one-way traffic in the match between the defending champions, the Free State Crinums, and the Limpopo Baobabs.  Led by Proteas captain Maryke Holtzhausen, the Crinums shot out of the starting blocks and were 16-seven ahead after the first quarter.  They showed no mercy and the Baobabs were unable to score a single goal in the second quarter, which ended with the Crinums leading 34-7.  Superb defence by Alicia Puren  and Tanja Mostert meant that the ball was turned before the Baobabs were able to take a shot at goal.

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Lauren Lee Christians of the Crinums challenged by Sylvia Lebelo of the Baobabs

Baobabs coach Cecilia Molokwane made some changes at halftime and the Baobabs made something of a comeback, scoring nine goals to the Crinums’ 12.  But in the final quarter, the champions ran riot, adding 23 goals to five for the Limpopo side.

“It was lovely to play with a smile on our faces again,” said a beaming Puren, who was named player of the match. “We had a bad start to the tournament, losing our first two matches, but we are getting our rhythm back and the combinations are beginning to take shape.”

Crinums’ coach Burta de Kock said both teams benefited, even from one-sided matches.

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Player of the match Alicia Puren of the Crinums

“The main focus of this tournament is developing young players and bringing them up to standard.  We are taking things game by game, and I am very happy to see young players stepping up.”

Cecilia Molokwane, the Baobabs’ coach, agreed that it was important for teams like hers to play against teams like the start-studded Crinums. “If we don’t play them, how do we ever improve,” she asked.

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Jamari Myburgh of the Diamonds challenged by Marlize De Bruin of the Fireballs during the 2016 Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League match between Gauteng Golden Fireballs and Northern Cape Diamonds

Fireballs bounce back against Diamonds

In the final game of the evening, the Golden Fireballs bounced back from their defeat at the hands of the Crinums on Friday to beat the Diamonds 59-31.  The Diamonds struggled initially, and it was 10 minutes before they scored their first goal. The Fireballs led 17-4 after the first quarter and were 28-12 ahead at halftime.

Fireballs coach Elsje Jordaan said she was much happier than the day before.

“We had a hard session this morning and looked each other in the eye.  I think our combinations are beginning to jell and we are beginning to trust one another,” she said.

“I will sleep much better tonight.”

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Player of the match Zanne Maria Pienaar of the Fireballs

The Diamonds coach, Elsje van der Merwe, said she was disappointed with the outcome of the match, because her team had played better against the Jaguars earlier in the tournament.

“We struggled to get going, because they play a very physical style of netball, but I was pleased that I had an opportunity to blood some of my younger players.  At halftime, we agreed that we would aim to score 30 goals, and we went one better,” she said.

The Northern Cape coach said she would use her strongest line-up against the Sunbirds on Sunday morning. “We really want to beat them, because we are aiming to finish in the top six in the tournament.”

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Palesa Mbukwana of the Sunbirds closed down by Nonhlanhla Shezi of the Kingdom Stars

Kingdom Stars outshine Sunbirds

The Kingdom Stars completely dominated the Mpumalanga Sunbirds in their Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League (NPL) match at the Heartfelt Arena on Saturday, thrashing them by 59 points to 29, after leading 27-14 at halftime. The Stars came out fast and furious, and the Sunbirds struggled to keep up with the pace. It was a welcome result for Stars coach Marchelle Maroun, after two losses last weekend.

“I’m a lot happier than I was a week ago,” she said. “I did a lot of work with the shooters during the week and that paid off. But we are still a work in progress and there’s a lot of work to do. “What pleases me is that we have been able to try a number of combinations that are working well.  I have a lot of versatile players who have natural flair.”

She praised the young Sunbirds shooter, 19-year-old Leani du Plessis, saying her accuracy had been impressive. “We had to make sure the ball didn’t get into their circle, because if she got the ball, she scored,” said Maroun. Player of the match Precious Mthembu of the Stars, who has played for the Proteas for a number of years, said the Stars knew they had to come back strongly after two defeats.

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Player of the match Nothando Mthembu of the Kingdom Stars

“We had to do what the coach wanted and follow the game plan,” she said. Jenne-Lee Delport, coach of the Sunbirds, said she was disappointed with the result of the match. “We are not 30 goals weaker than they are,” she said. “Leani had a good day today, but the two players I used in goal attack were both missing too many goals.  Every centre pass we lost was because the shooters missed their shot at goal.

“But what did please me was that the girls are no longer passing the ball backwards, as they were doing last week.  They are also beginning to connect with one another, and once they do that, we will have a stronger team.”

Friday fixtures:

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Zanne Maria Pienaar of the Fireballs challenged by LMaryka Holtzhauzen of the Crinums. Photo: Muzi Ntombela

 Crinums get the monkey off their backs

The defending champions, the Free State Crinums, notched up their first victory of the Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League (NPL) with a comprehensive 47-39 victory over the Golden Fireballs at the Heartfelt Arena on Friday night.

The two teams traded goal for goal for the first 10 minutes before the Fireballs moved into the lead, finishing the first quarter 12-8 ahead.  But Crinums coach Burta de Kock changed her goal shooter, bringing on Gertriana Retief, who played  a blinder.  Playing in her first NPL match, Retief ended up being named Player of the Match.  Whereas the Fireballs goalshooter Deanke Rhode appeared to have lost her nerve, missing goals she would normally get in, Retief remained calm and the Crinums first drew level and then passed the Gauteng team.  By halftime, the Crinums had a lead of 25 goals to 21.  In the third quarter, they outscored the Fireballs by 12 goals to six and stretched their lead to the crucial 10 goal margin, leading 37-27.

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Player of the match Rieze Straeuli of the Crinums. Photo: Muzi Ntombela

The Fireballs made something of a recovery in the final quarter, winning it by 12 goals to 10, but it was too little, too late.

De Kock said getting the win was a monkey off the team’s back. “I am very pleased with them,” she said. “There were more good moments than bad.  This isn’t the same team that won the title last year.  We have a lot of youngsters, but we have excellent leadership from Maryke Holtzhausen and Lauren-Lee Christians, and what really pleased me was they stuck to the game plan throughout.  There are still thing we can work on, but they did well tonight.”

Fireballs coach Elsje Jordaan said it had been torture watching her team.

“They just couldn’t get their rhythm, and they made too many mistakes, but that’s how you learn and grow,” she said. “We are rebuilding the team and it’s going to be a hard year.  But all credit to the Crinums, who played very well.”

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Ndluvuyo Nodlulumbe of the Aloes challenged by Jasmine Ziegelmeier of the Jaguars. Photo Muzi Ntombela

Jaguars stamp the Aloes

Last year’s finalists, the Jaguars, stamped their authority in their match against the Eastern Cape Aloes, beating them by 61 goals to 33.  The Aloes struggled to get going, and five minutes had passed before they scored their first goal.  By the end of the first quarter, the Aloes were 16-7 ahead, but they came back strongly in the second quarter, where each team scored 14 goals.  It was a fast-paced match, and the Eastern Cape team fought valiantly throughout.

“We can take a lot out of this match,” said Aloes coach Desiree Neville. “We drew the second quarter, and I have told them that if they can draw one quarter, they can draw all four.

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Player of the match Tshina Mdau of the Jaguars. Photo: Muzi Ntombela

“I was able to put all 12 members of the squad under pressure.  There is no point in waiting to play the weaker teams to play everyone – they all learnt a lot from playing one of the top teams.”

Jaguars coach Jenny de Klerk said she was never totally happy with her team’s performance, because she always felt they could do better. “They aren’t playing the way I want them to play yet, but I am very pleased with the way some of the younger players performed.  Ina-Marie Venter, who has tended to be overshadowed by Lindie Lombard, had a good game as goalshooter,” she said.

“I knew the Aloes would give us a good game, even though they are one of the weaker teams.  They never give up, and they play a fast, physical game.  WE can never take any of  the teams for granted,” said De Klerk.


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