SOUTH AFRICA 61 – 50 WALES
South Africa cleared the first hurdle in their Netball World Cup 2023 campaign when they beat Wales 61-50 at a packed CTICC in Cape Town.
The Welsh team didn’t only have to contend with the superiority of the Proteas on the court but also the deafening roar of the home crowd in the stands. There was cheering, dancing and singing throughout the 60-minute encounter that undoubtedly fuelled the home side’s determination to make their country proud.
Player of the tournament at the 2019 Netball World Cup in Liverpool Karla Pretorius made her 99th appearance for the Proteas and was in great form, putting her impressive defensive abilities on full display.
In the first two quarters, South Africa showed why they are fifth on the latest world rankings compared to Wales’ ninth position. They had the height advantage over their opponents as well as the speed and agility across court. The Proteas went into the lead 32-24, with Ine-Marie Venter having a stellar performance as goal shooter, finding the net time after time.
While most of the players settled well into their positions, Elmeré van der Berg seemed to struggle to find her feet. Welsh defenders Ella Powell-Davies and Christina Shaw pounced on Van der Berg’s nervousness, keeping her from making her mark on the big stage. Her shooting average of 50 per cent was clear evidence of that and she moved to the bench for the final two quarters of the match, being replaced by Nichole Taljaard. Coach Norma Plummer also brought on Jeanté Strydom (for Shadine van der Merwe) who made her international debut for South Africa.
Wales didn’t make any substitutions until the third quarter with Nansi Kuti replacing Georgia Rowe at goal shooter. It was also Kuti’s debut for Wales.
In the final stretch of the match, South Africa started pulling away. They used their status as one of the most experienced teams at the World Cup in terms of international caps and upped the tempo to completely shut out the Welsh and clinch an important victory on the first day of action.
Plummer was beaming with pride about Venter’s performance that saw her named the Most Valuable Player.
“Her growth has been phenomenal. She had outstanding shooting for us,” said Plummer.
“It was a win, not what I necessarily would call a convincing win. I thought our first quarter was sensational but then the Welsh notched it up in the second and third quarters. We started spraying balls and that was disappointing. There’s a lot of information that we now have and that we can use and work on.”
On Sunday, the Proteas face Jamaica who stacked 105 goals against Sri Lanka. Captain Bongi Msomi said they are not looking that far ahead.
“We are taking it day by day. Tomorrow it’s Sri Lanka. In 2019 we were in the same situation, anything can happen on any day. But first things first, and that’s tomorrow.”
Q2: 32-24 (14-15)
Q3: 47-37 (15-13)
Q4: 61-50 (14-13)
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Ine-Marie Venter (South Africa)
JAMAICA 105-25 SRI LANKA
Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls got their tournament off to a storming start, notching up a formidable 100-point total in their opening Group C match against Sri Lanka.
That was only the second time the Jamaicans have scored 100 goals on the World Cup stage and the 14th time that the century mark has been surpassed by any team in the tournament’s 60-year history.
The last time the milestone was achieved was in 2015 when Sri Lanka was also on the receiving end of a 101-18 drubbing at the hands of Malawi.
On Friday, the Jamaicans slotted in 11 goals before the Sri Lankans got themselves on the scoreboard.
Goal shooter Romelda Aiken-George notched up a 100 per cent shooting average in the opening quarter, scoring 19 of her side’s 26 goals. This is the 34-year-old’s fifth Netball World Cup, so equalling the Jamaican record jointly held by her coach, Connie Francis, and Janet Johnson.
Sri Lanka won the Asian qualifying tournament to book their place at the Netball World Cup but found it tough going against the slick Jamaican outfit, reaching halftime facing a 41-goal deficit.
Jhaniele Fowler came on for the first time in the third quarter and notched up a near-perfect 24 out of 25 goals as the Jamaicans continued to dominate. She added 18 more in the fourth quarter to finish with a 97.7 shooting average – both she and Aiken-George (97.1 per cent) making the most of their significant height advantage in the circle.
It was Rebekah Robinson who slotted in the Jamaicans’ 100th goal of the match in the final quarter as they romped to a 105-25 victory.
Speaking after the match, coach Francis said: “I loved the way the girls went out there and put on a fantastic show… I am so proud that they were able to execute well throughout the court.
“It was good to get all the girls out there and you know what I was happy about, was the different types of combinations that we could run and we were able to see that the girls were executing it.”
Commenting on her side surpassing the 100-goal mark, Francis simply added: “The girls set specific targets and to see them attain them was really good.”
Sri Lankan captain Gayanjali Amarawansa admitted afterwards: “For Asians this was a very tough game. This is the first time we have played against Jamaica so we had a good experience. I think we have to experience games like this so it was a good one.
“Toughness and physicality are the good lessons for us so we hope to go ahead with that.”
Q2: 52-11 (26-6)
Q3: 75-18 (23-7)
Q4: 105-25 (30-7)
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Latanya Wilson (Jamaica)
ENGLAND 90 – 29 BARBADOS
England also got their bid for a first ever Netball World Cup crown off to a positive start, producing a commanding performance against Barbados in their opening Group B encounter.
The match was unique in that it saw England’s Geva Mentor and Jade Clark as well as Barbados’s Latonia Blackman all stepping out on the Netball World Cup stage for an incredible record-equalling sixth time.
The two sides have met a total of six times in Netball World Cup history, with the island nation never having gotten the better of the Roses.
While the Bajan Gems had a positive start to the match, staying in touch for the first five minutes, seven unanswered goals from England towards the end of the quarter saw them surging further ahead than they already were to reach the first break 20-8 up.
The English didn’t look back from there, dominating on all fronts, winning the next quarter by the same 12-goal margin and continuing that ascendency.
Barbados could manage just four goals in the third period and things didn’t go much better in the fourth, the Roses rolling out comfortable 90-29 winners.
England coach Jess Thirlby was understandably pleased with her team’s performance, in which World Cup debutante Funmi Fadoju was named the Most Valuable Player.
“I’m really pleased. It’s a solid start. I think while we’re not getting carried away with the scoreboard, one of the learnings for us is to make sure we’re more consistent quarter on quarter, irrelevant of changes… and I actually thought quarter on quarter we got stronger, we found more ball through the game which was great, we adjusted.
“It’s a confidence boost but we’re not getting carried away, we have bigger challenges to come in the next couple of days.”
Barbados coach Denise Alleyne said: “I think we had a really good first half, we stuck to the gameplan for the most part. We didn’t convert as many as we would have liked but we were able to move the ball around and we had some good spots. We had a bit of a mental lapse in the third quarter that spilled over to the fourth but for the most part, I saw some good things happening and we have some stuff we can improve upon for our next game.
Speaking about Blackman playing in her sixth Netball World Cup, she added: “It’s just great, Latonia is a patriot at heart. It’s interesting because my very last tournament as a player was her first so we actually played together for one tournament. I hope it’s not her last. She still has a lot to offer – her spirit, her personality, everything she stands for is what Barbados netball is all about.”
Q2: 42-18 (22-10)
Q3: 65-22 (23-4)
Q4: 90-29 (25-7)
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Funmi Fadoju (England)
MALAWI 55 – 49 SCOTLAND
In a pulsating match at the Netball World Cup 2023, the Malawi Queens scored a 55-49 come-from-behind victory over Scotland. It was the first time these two sides have met in the history of the sport’s showpiece tournament.
Before the tournament started, Scotland captain Claire Maxwell said her team wanted to shake the tag of underachievers. This result certainly didn’t do anything to achieve what she set out to do.
The match started with a bang as Malawi’s shooting duo, Joyce Mvula and Jane Chimaliro, displayed remarkable accuracy, converting all their chances at goal in the first quarter. But despite their impeccable shooting, Malawi struggled to retain possession, with only 37 per cent of the ball in their hands. Scotland held a comfortable 17-9 lead at the end of the first quarter and it looked like an upset was on the cards.
In the second 15 minutes, the African team kicked into high gear, proving their mettle and resilience. With fresh legs stepping in from the bench, the team started gradually chipping away at the seemingly insurmountable lead Scotland had established earlier on.
Scotland, on the other hand, started the first three quarters with an unchanged lineup, sticking to their initial strategy of staying with the tried and tested. They introduced replacements in the final 15 minutes in an attempt to salvage the match but it was not to be.
Malawi will undoubtedly want to build on the exceptional performance against Scotland with their eyes set on the playoffs. For their opponents it is time to regroup and refine their match strategies, hoping to bounce back stronger.
Q2: 29-22 (12-13)
Q3: 41-35 (12-13)
Q4: 55-49 (20-8)
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Joyce Mvula (Malawi)
NEW ZEALAND 76 – 27 TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
New Zealand’s Silver Ferns began their Netball World Cup title defence with a dominant display over Trinidad and Tobago at the Cape Town International Convention Centre in South Africa on Friday, claiming a 76-27 victory.
The 2019 Netball World Cup champions raced into a nine-goal lead before Joelisa Cooper could slot in Trinidad and Tobago’s first goal of the tournament. With Grace Nweke notching up a flawless 100 per cent shooting record at the other end of the court in the first quarter, the Silver Ferns were 23-2 up by the first break.
They continued that momentum into the second quarter, Maia Wilson coming on for Nweke and continuing the 100 per cent scoring record. But Trinidad and Tobago managed to find their shooters in the circle with more regularity – wing attack Shantel Seemungal and later centre Alena Brooks working hard in midcourt – scoring nine goals of their own to take the score to 43-11 at half time.
It was an even better third quarter from the Caribbean nation as they began by matching New Zealand goal for goal for the first 10 minutes and enjoyed 57 per cent of the possession. They once again scored nine goals but restricted the Silver Ferns to just 15 as New Zealand coach Noeline Taurua gave each of her players some court time. Trinidad and Tobago continued their positive performance in the final period, but ultimately the defending champions wrapped up a resounding victory.
New Zealand’s South African-born defender Karin Burger was named Most Valuable Player
“I was happy with the start. I thought we were quite dominant,” said Taurua afterwards. “There are some elements we’ve been working on and I could see that out on court. I thought that as the game progressed we sort of pulled ourselves apart or the opposition did and we became reactive but it’s a good start for us and we know the areas we can improve on.”
New Zealand captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio added: “I think we did start well but we have to make sure that we continue to rise above the physicality when it comes so it was a good challenge for us…
“Obviously we had multiple combos out there but we’ve always talked around the fact that no matter who is on we have to be able to do our job so it’s just getting that consistency across the quarters but good for us to know now where we can grow.”
Trinidad and Tobago coach Joel “Twiggy” Young-Strong was pleased with her side’s performance, particularly in the second half.
“New Zealand is New Zealand – they were the World Cup winners so it was tough. We took a little too long to settle in but when we settled in we did some good things, we did some great things and I am very pleased with the goal that we set – to lift our goals against New Zealand and we did that so we celebrate some small wins today.
Q2: 43-11 (20-9)
Q3: 58-20 (15-9)
Q4: 76-27 (18-7)
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Karin Burger (New Zealand)
TONGA 56 – 51 FIJI
A spirited Tonga, in only their second outing at the sport’s showpiece, beat Fiji 56-51 in a Group A encounter on day 1 of the Netball World Cup 2023 in Cape Town. It was the first time these two island nations have met at the World Cup with Fiji participating for the 10th time.
Tonga took to the court wearing black armbands after the recent death of Mo’onia Gerrard’s mother. The 42-year-old defender came out of retirement to represent her second country at a World Cup, previously winning the gold medal with Australia at the 2007 and 2011 tournaments. She made her international debut against South Africa in Johannesburg in 2004.
It was a tentative start by both teams. Fiji decided on an aerial game to counter the more physical play of Tonga. It mattered on the scoreboard, and they ended the first 15 minutes with a five-goal lead.
At the start of the second quarter, Tonga managed to grab a few goals and scored the equaliser after five minutes. Despite outscoring Fiji, their opponents went into the halftime break with a two-point lead.
When shooter Cathrine Tuivaiti came on court for Tonga in the third quarter, it was for the representation of her third country, having previously played for Samoa and New Zealand. The 2023 World Cup is her second one, after playing for Samoa at the 2007 tournament in Auckland.
With the third quarter winding down, Tonga’s superior position on the world rankings, seventh compared to Fiji’s 17th, enabled them to get a hold of the game. Although Fiji’s goal circle was operating well, silly mistakes were starting to creep in, costing them dearly.
The last 15 minutes of the match saw strong attacking play from Tonga, putting their opponents under constant pressure across the court. Accurate shooting by Tuivaiti and Uneeq Palavi ensured the win.
Tonga vice-captain Kelea Iongi was delighted with her team’s first victory at the 2023 World Cup.
“It was just important to stay one on one and grind it out on defence and attack. It was just a case of staying calm, getting the tips and the intercepts. It was a great team effort,” she said.
Tonga centre Hulita Veve was named Most Valuable Player. She put in a great all-round performance, moving the ball through mid-court and getting several intercepts at crucial moments during the match.
Q2: 28-26 (15-12)
Q3: 40-36 (14-8)
Q4: 56-51 (16-15)
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Hulita Veve (Tonga)
AUSTRALIA 86-30 ZIMBABWE
World number one Australia completely outplayed Zimbabwe in their first match at the Netball World Cup 2023 in Cape Town, beating their African counterparts 86-30. This was just the second World Cup meeting between the two countries. Australia won the only other encounter 73-37 four years ago in Liverpool.
Both teams remained the same for the first half of the match, with coaches Stacey Marinkovich and Ropafadzo Mutsauki appearing to take a “wait and see” approach. In the third quarter though, Marinkovich rung the changes, bringing on the remaining reserves and making several positional switches, including Ash Brazzil moving from wing defence to centre and Jo Weston moving from centre to goal defence for Australia.
For Zimbabwe, captain Felisitus Kwangwa switched from goal defence to wing defence, Joice Takaidza from centre to goal defence and Sharleen Tanaka Makusha from wing defence to centre.
With Zimbabwe claiming 51 per cent of the possession during the first two quarters, the latter stages of the match saw the 2022 Commonwealth Games champions completely stamping their authority on proceedings. The Aussies claimed 15 intercepts, considerably cutting down the passing options of Zimbabwe.
Australian captain Liz Watson brushed off having to step from the court to be re-strapped for a light scratch, saying it was good to get the pressure of the first game out of the way despite being the top-ranked team in the world.
“There are some really strong countries here and international netball is getting tighter all the time. We’ve had some nice success over the past 18 months, this was a great start and now we can build from here and go all the way. We just have to embrace being number one and be proud of that.”
It was a less-than-impressed Zim coach Mutsauki who addressed the media after the match.
“We lacked character today, especially in the second half. We gave Australia too much respect. It is now back to the drawing board before tomorrow.”
Courtney Bruce was named Most Valuable Player. Even though she only came on in the third quarter for Australia, coach Marinkovich used her versatility to great advantage. Bruce started at goalkeeper and then moved to wing defence, centre and goal defence.
Q2: 41-18 (21-7)
Q3: 62-24 (21-6)
Q4: 86-30 (24-6)
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Courtney Bruce (Australia)
UGANDA 79-37 SINGAPORE
A first Netball World Cup clash between Uganda and Singapore saw the African nation dominating from start to finish and walking away with a 79-37 victory.
The She Cranes pulled away in the first quarter, enjoying 60 per cent of the possession in the period and surging ahead to a 22-9 lead.
It was more of the same in the second quarter as the Ugandans proved quicker and slicker on all fronts with Haniisha Muhameed and Shadiah Nassanga doing the business in the shooting circle.
The Ugandans stuck with their starting seven throughout the first half, coach Fred Mugerwa only making changes at half time. He brought 6 foot 6 Mary Cholhok on as goal shooter, with captain Irene Eyaru in as goal attack among several other changes.
Cholhok is one of just two players in the Ugandan squad with Netball World Cup experience, having played at the previous tournament in 2019. She played just one quarter on Friday, however, as Mugerwa continued to roll in the changes and give all his players valuable court time.
Ultimately it was a comfortable victory for the east Africans, much to the delight of their vocal supporters in the crowd, although coach Mugerwa was convinced his side should have scored more goals.
“I was happy but not a hundred per cent,” he said. “We should have scored more than the goals we scored but I think there are some errors that we are making as a team, but we will work on that.
“Some passes were not good so we need to work on that, some of the movements as well, but the moment we work those ones out I think everything will be fine.”
Singapore captain Kai Wei Toh said the match provided a valuable learning experience for her side.
“It was a very big first game. We are a very young team so this game allowed them to experience different body builds and physicality – something that we can use to prepare for the next few games,” she said.
“We are fit enough to go for it – we just have to go for it. We didn’t expect it to be so tough but I think it’s a good thing that the team experienced it once and we know what to expect for the next one.”
“I think we can utilise our speed a bit more. Today we were a bit hesitant with our passes and runs because of their long arms and hands so if we are able to do that, we’ll be able to play a better game next time.”
Q2: 42-18 (20-9)
Q3: 62-29 (20-11)
Q4: 79-37 (17-8)
PLAYER OF THE MATCH: Margret Baagala (Uganda)
Imogen Allison: Imogen Allison of England and Teresa Howell of Barbados during the Netball World Cup 2023, Pool A match between England and Barbados at Cape Town International Convention Centre Court 1 on July 28, 2023 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Netball World Cup 2023)
Kai Wei Toh: Kai Wei Toh of Singapore in action during the Netball World Cup 2023 Pool D match between Uganda and Singapore at Cape Town International Convention Centre Court 2 on July 28, 2023 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Shaun Roy/Gallo Images/Netball World Cup 2023)