Kingdom Stars vs Aloes, Golden Fireballs vs Jaguars, Southern Stings vs North West Flames, Comets vs Sunbirds

The opening day of the 2023 edition of the Telkom Netball League saw a repeat of last year’s promotion/relegation match between the Kingdom Stars and the Eastern Cape Aloes. The Stars were meant to play in Division Two this season following their defeat in the playoff match, but they managed to dodge that bullet and remain in the top division after two new teams were added to the league this year.

Both sides had a point to prove, but a closely contested first half only saw the Stars lead by a narrow two goals. Stars’ Goal Defense Thulisile Maduna stole the show defensively, with some crucial intercepts, but the high turnover rate made it difficult for the KZN outfit to increase their lead. The Aloes were despondent in the championship quarter, allowing the Stars’ smothering pressure to get to them and only scoring just four goals.

The Stars’ defensive trio of Nozipho Ntshangase (Goal Keeper), Maduna (Goal Defense) and Sidney Coetzee (Wing Defense) continued to stifle Sameshia Esau’s attack in the final quarter. Esau was forced to make some uncharacteristic, wholesome changes, none of which could quite stamp out the Stars’ grasp of the game. The Kingdom Stars got their campaign underway with a great start after beating last year’s division two champions 41-32.

Meanwhile, debutants Limpopo Lilies opened their campaign against the Northern Cape Diamonds on home soil at the Ngoako Ramatlhodi Sports Complex in the opening game this morning. The Lilies were valiant throughout the game, but a high error rate yielded to a 39-52 defeat. Former Tornados duo Seneste Ponie and Courtleigh Behr, who played Centre and Goal Attack respectively, made their debut for the Diamonds and mastered their roles effortlessly to steer the Northern Cape side to victory.

The Free State Sonoblomo, one of the two new teams added this year, showed character against the Kingdom Queens even though they fell short by four goals in the end. Sonoblomo gave up a 6-1 lead in the opening quarter when the Queens found their footing to restore parity and drew level. Both teams refused to back down, with only one goal separating the two sides in the second and third quarters. Despite the Queens having many new faces in the team and a new coach, Magda Du Plessis, their experience still pulled through at the end and earned them a 41-32 victory.

Fireballs Claim Bragging Rights Against Jaguars In Derby Opener

The strong-suited Golden Fireballs overcame their nemesis Jaguars in the Gauteng derby following a five-goal victory on day one of the Telkom Netball League at the Ngoako Ramatlhodi Sports Complex in Limpopo. The much-anticipated 2022 final was the last game of the day but the arena’s fervent atmosphere remained consistent. As expected, both sides relied on their strength to get them over the line but it ended up being a game of turnovers and conversions. In the end, the Fireballs’ attacking prowess proved to be lethal for the five-time champions who succumbed to a 40-45 defeat.

In the other division one match, Phumza Maweni displayed a player of the match performance that saw the Southern Stings beat the North West Flames 51-33. Maweni returned to the domestic league after representing Team Bath in the United Kingdom last year. Although, it was an emphatic victory for the Stings, they will still look to rectify some mistakes going forward in order to surpass last season’s fourth-place finish. Meanwhile, Flames coach Elsunet Du Plessis says all is not lost as this was the opening game.

‘’Overall, we had brilliant passages of play but we lacked consistency. We made silly mistakes when we were on attack and it’s just about containing the ball and finishing off strong in the shooting circle. I’m looking forward to this season; I am quite excited because I can see there is room for improvement and there are things that we really did well. Defensively, we pulled off a few brilliant intercepts and that’s something to be happy about’’.

The Eastern Cape Comets’ unrelenting spirit salvaged them a 32-all draw in the last minute against an experienced Mpumalanga Sunbirds side. The Sunbirds had the upper hand in the first thirty minutes, leading 18-14 at half-time. Comets coach Wendy Higson made two attacking changes in the third quarter, bringing in Chante Smith at Centre and Qamisa Jonas at Wing Attack. Having some fresh legs on court is exactly what the Comets needed to even things out ahead of the final fifteen minutes. A see-saw battle continued until the last three minutes, when the Sunbirds capaitalized on a turnover ball and their centre pass to take a two-goal lead. However, a missed opportunity under the post and a hard-earned gain by Comets Centre Zamokuhle Mpila levelled matters in the last ten seconds of the game.

 

images supplied by Netball SA 

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