The Eastern Aloes made sure of their place at the top of the log in the second division of the Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League on Saturday, with a hard-fought 38-34 win over their nearest rivals, the Kingdom Stars. Although they never lost their lead, there was no stage at which the Aloes were able to sit back and relax, because the KwaZulu-Natal team fought like tigers throughout. The difference between the two teams was never more than four goals, with the Aloes leading 18-14 at half-time.
The ball moved from end to end, with both teams achieving frequent intercepts and turnovers, and defenders on both sides had excellent games. Aloes coach Ciska Kirchoff says: ‘This was our must-win match. Our plan was to end at the top of the log, and to do that we had to beat the Stars. Now we have just one more league match to play, against the Limpopo Baobabs. I’m not taking anything for granted, but I think we can take them. Once that’s over, we can focus on the play-offs next weekend.’ Kirchoff bemoaned the number of times the Aloes had lost possession through careless passes, saying: ‘We’re our own worst enemies. When we’ve got the ball, we must get the goals. We’re the senior team, and we should take control.’
The Stars coach, Marchelle Maroun, had similar complaints, saying: ‘I think our biggest problem is big match temperament and decision-making under pressure. When you have the ball right under the post and then you lose it against the team like the Aloes – well, we just can’t afford mistakes like that.’ She said she was pleased that the Stars had a better start than in their first round match against the Aloes: ‘We were with them all the way, and we won the last two quarters. Now we just have to get our minds right before the play-offs.’ The Stars play the Mpumalanga Sunbirds on Sunday, and Maroun said she was taking nothing for granted: ‘These other teams are getting better all the time, so we can’t afford to be complacent.’
Photo credit: Christiaan Kotze/SASPA