Hosts South Africa return to winning ways

netball world cup

SOUTH AFRICA 69 – 28 TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

After Sunday’s loss to Jamaica, South Africa headed into their first Pool G match against Trinidad & Tobago having received another devastating blow to their hopes of contesting for a medal at the Netball World Cup 2023 in front of their home crowd.

Goal shooter Lenize Potgieter, who played the first three quarters against Jamaica, was ruled out of the rest of the tournament due to a knee injury. She was replaced by reserve Sesandile Owethu Ngubane. Potgieter didn’t play in the Proteas’ games against Wales and Sri Lanka as a precaution because of what coach Norma Plummer referred to as “a slight niggle”.

Potgieter had an operation on her right knee in July last year and underwent intense rehabilitation. She missed the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham where South Africa had to settle for sixth position.

Plummer stuck with the same seven for the first two quarters as the Proteas took a commanding 33-15 lead by halftime. Coming back for the third quarter, Nichole Taljaard moved from goal attack to goal shooter while Elmeré van der Berg came on as goal attack.

With seven minutes to go, Ngubane earned only her second cap for South Africa when she replaced Taljaard. She scored her first goal at a World Cup within the last 30 seconds of the match.

Despite the commanding victory by South Africa, their seventh over Trinidad and Tobago in eight encounters at the World Cup, the Proteas’ below-par goal shooting would be of great concern. Between Venter, Taljaard and Van der Berg they missed 14 shots. The Proteas can ill-afford those sorts of stats against tougher opponents such as defending champions New Zealand who lie in wait on Wednesday.

Proteas assistant coach Dumisani Chauke acknowledged that losing Potgieter was not ideal as she has been a prominent member of the team.

“She’s been quite a strong anchor, so it is a blow. But we do have strong players in the team that are well capable of carrying on with the job and slot in nicely. Lenize is still around though, supporting us and making sure the girls stay together,” she said.

Chauke said it was easy for Ngubane to step up and take her spot in the team as the 15-player squad had been training together at several intense training camps in the run-up to the World Cup.

“All 15 are prepared for anything that comes along. So it was a smooth transition when she took to court today as there was nothing she [Ngubane] had to catch up on. She also had a great performance in the recent TNL [Telkom Netball League], so that was good.”

Trinidad & Tobago captain Shaquanda Greene-Noel commented that there were several things that didn’t work for her side in the match.

“We were ill-disciplined and against a physical team like South Africa, you can’t afford that. There were also a lot of silly mistakes and errors because we were under great pressure the whole match. But we just have to keep on moving forward as there are still matches left and we want to give our best,” she said.

SCORES:

Q1: 18-12

Q2: 33-15 (15-3)

Q3: 51-21 (18-6)

Q4: 69-28 (18-7)

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Nichole Taljaard (South Africa)

TONGA 46 – 72 ENGLAND

World No. 3 England took on the ever-improving Tonga for the first time at a Netball World Cup in their first match of the second stage preliminaries on Sunday and came away with a 72-46 victory.

Like they did against Australia last week, the Tongans provided a stiff test for their more fancied opponents in the opening quarter. While England headed into the first break 19-13 up, it was far from a comfortable lead.

England coach Jess Thirlby continued to switch things up by swapping Helen Housby and Eleanor Cardwell at goal attack and goal shooter at the start of the second quarter while the only change from Tonga was Mo’onia Gerrard (who played 68 Tests for the Australian Diamonds) and Lelea Iongi also switching positions – at goal keeper and goal defence. Midway through the period, Cat Tuivaiti was brought on as goal shooter but was only afforded one opportunity to score, Tonga being restricted to just nine goals in the 15-minute period.

While things were fairly even in the first quarter, England did an even better job of winning and holding onto their ball in the second, enjoying 62 per cent of the possession and surging ahead to reach halftime 38-22 ahead.

The Tongans were understandably smiling when they came off court after the third quarter. It was one in which they found their rhythm, showing more confidence, notching up four intercepts to England’s one, and almost matching the Roses goal-for-goal. The difference between the sides in the quarter score was just two goals.

A slick-looking England showed superior intensity and speed in the final period, however, and were able to pull away even further to wrap up a 72-46 victory.

Speaking after the match, England coach Jess Thirlby said: “I thought the whole team came with great energy today… I think we raised the bar today in terms of our best play, but are we still on the hunt to be more clinical? Absolutely.

“I think these girls are the first ones to say there’s some work to be done but we’re trying to just catch ourselves with – the bar’s gone up.

“I think our best today is the best we’ve seen from us through the tournament… It is important that we reduce our error count. It’s also really important that we reward getting back to what we believe to be our greatest strengths which is winning ball across the court with multiple people and finding some nice clean lines against a style of play actually quite similar to New Zealand so that’s been a good rehearsal for us.”

Asked what the difference was between the sides, Tonga’s Mo’onia reckoned: “Resources and time with teammates. Other than the scoreline, I think it’s a good indication of where we need to get.

“But it just shows you that a little country called Tonga can really inspire the next generation hopefully and also show the tier-one nations that it doesn’t matter where you’re from, we can still challenge and play the game of netball just as well as the teams that have all the cash.”

SCORES

Q1: 13-19

Q2: 22-38 (9-19)

Q3: 36-54 (14-16)

Q4: 46-72 (10-18)

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Imogen Allison (England)

JAMAICA 61 – 49 UGANDA    

With shouts of “defence, defence” from the Jamaican fans in the stands whenever Uganda had the ball, the Sunshine Girls carved out a crucial victory over the She Cranes in a Pool G match in Cape Town on Monday.

Jamaica goalkeeper Shamera Sterling and goal defence Latanya Wilson stuck like glue to She Cranes shooters Mary Cholhok and Irene Eyaru in the first 15 minutes of the match. So much so that Sterling copped a caution from the umpire for persistent contact.

Uganda enjoyed most of the possession at the start of the game. The normally reliable Cholhok however missed four of her 11 shots at goal and this saw the Sunshine Girls 15-11 in the lead after the first quarter.

In the run-up to halftime, the Jamaica midcourt effectively closed the attacking gaps of the She Cranes and got more access to the ball themselves. Shooter Jhaniele Fowler and goal attack Shanice Beckford maintained a 100 per cent shooting record to put the world number four team 38-21 ahead as the hooter sounded the end of the second quarter.

Uganda took to court with the same seven players for the second half of the match. With Margret Baagala having another standout centre-court performance, the She Cranes settled down for the first time and allowed the ball to do the work. The result was winning the third quarter 16-11.

Even though it was an equal-scoring last 15 minutes (12-12), Jamaica managed to hang on for the victory. All 12 players got time on court as every match at this stage of the World Cup is a must-win affair.

Jamaica’s Fowler afterwards acknowledged it was a game with plenty of ebbs and flows.

“There is definitely room for improvement and it was important that the full team take to the court. Today it felt a little disconnected at times and also a bit flat. We need to make sure to connect properly going forward.”

Uganda’s Irene Eyaru said it was the small mistakes that cost her team.

“There was a better effort in the second half and we made some changes to give everyone a chance to show what they are made of. We need to work on a few things to help us improve for the next games.”

SCORES:

Q1: 15-11

Q2: 38-21 (23-9)

Q3: 49-37 (11-16)

Q4: 61-49 (12-12)

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Shadiah Nassanga (Uganda)

SRI LANKA 52 – 55 SINGAPORE

A team that includes the tallest player in the tournament, 2.06m Tharjini Sivalingam, taking on a combination of the shortest promised to be an intriguing prospect as Sri Lanka took on Singapore in a clash of the Netball World Cup’s bottom-ranked sides.

What Singapore lacked in height, they made up for in speed in the opening quarter, effectively executing their short-pass game to take a nine-goal lead into the first break. A marked improvement in their shooting accuracy made all the difference for the Singaporeans.

Thishala Algama was brought on to replace Sivalingam at goal shooter in the second quarter, however, and that sparked a massive turnaround for Sri Lanka, who swiftly made up the nine-goal deficit and even inched into the lead by halftime.

A tightly contested third quarter meant the teams remained neck and neck, with just two goals in it heading into the final quarter. A miscued pass from the Sri Lankans in the circle with two minutes to play proved to be crucial with the turnover allowing Singapore to edge ahead and claim a 55-52 win.

Defender Jamie Lim was named Most Valuable Player and said: “It feels great. We’ve been up against so many strong competitors in the first round and getting a win today really boosts our morale. Also, it’s against the defending champions of Asia so that will give an extra boost to us for the next games.”

As for turning the tables on the same team that beat them by 21 goals at the previous Netball World Cup four years ago, Lim added: “It’s awesome to get any win actually, especially a first win in this World Cup and to have it against another Asian country that we lost to before shows how much hard work we’ve put in and how much we’ve grown since the previous World Cup.”

SCORES

Q1: 10-19

Q2: 27-26 (17-7)

Q3: 40-42 (13-16)

Q4: 52-55 (12-13)

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Jamie Lim (Singapore)

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