The Eastern Aloes breezed into the second division final of the Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League on Saturday, beating the Mpumalanga Sunbirds 45-28. The Aloes have been the strongest team in the second division throughout the tournament, and were always expected to beat the Sunbirds, so the result came as no surprise, but the Sunbirds – the most improved team in the competition – gave a good account of themselves, and even won the final quarter by nine goals to eight. But the Aloes, who have led the log from their first game in the league, have been exceptionally consistent and today’s semi-final was another clinical and measured performance.
They again targeted the middle quarters building up an 18-point lead by outscoring the Sunbirds 26 goals to 12 in that time and in the process set up a final with the KwaZulu-Natal Kingdom Stars on Saturday night. The Sunbirds were let down by their shooters though for a 67% scoring average landing just 28 of their 42 attempts. In contrast the Aloes hit 45 of their 56 attempts for an 80% average.
Aloes coach Ciska Kirchoff says: ‘I’m happy with the result. We knew it would be quite tough, but I was able to play my bench players, so that everybody will be ready for the final tonight. The shooters were excellent, and the defenders did the job they had to do. Sunbirds boss Jenni-Lee Delport said: ‘I was very proud of my players. Our goal was not to lose by 23 goals like the last time we played them, and so that was a small victory for us. It was important for us to start strong and to end strong – we were not too far behind after the first quarter, which ended 11-7, and we won the last quarter.’ She said the improvement in the team meant they had something to build on for the NPL next year: ‘Meanwhile, we will be playing as the Sunbirds in the first division at the SPAR national championships in August, which will provide us with tremendous experience. We’ll be playing teams like Gauteng North and Free State and we will learn so much from playing them.’
Aloes goal attack Noluvuyo Nodludlume was the top shooter in the match netting 26 of her 28 attempts at an average of 93%, while for the Sunbirds goal shooter Nompulelelo Mthombeni ended with 77% average, after landing 10 of her 13 attempts.