Despite losing the Gauteng derby the impressive Jaguars retained their position at the top of the first division log this weekend and go into semi-finals confident of being the first team to win the historic Brutal Fruit Netball Cup. The Golden Fireballs beat the Jaguars 47-42, in a derby that kept the spectators enthralled from start to finish. It was only the second defeat for the Jaguars, who lost to the North West Flames last week.
The two Gauteng teams were neck and neck until halftime, and although the Fireballs went into the lead in the third quarter, the outcome of the match was in doubt until the last couple of minutes. It was probably the match of the tournament so far, and both coaches are hoping that the two teams will meet up again in next week’s final. “It was a great performance by my team and we are confident of going on to win the cup,” said Fireballs coach Martha Mosoahle-Samm.
The Free State Crinums, who lost both matches this weekend, going down to the Jaguars on Saturday morning, and then losing to the Eastern Aloes later in the day, finished second on the log and will play the third-placed Fireballs in next week’s first semifinal. The Aloes came from behind to beat the Crinums 33-32 and claim their first victory. It was a close-run affair, as the Crinums came back strongly in the final quarter, after trailing by as much as seven goals.
The Flames finished in fourth position, and will play the Jaguars in the second semifinal. In their last league match, they outplayed the Aloes, beating them 58-38. The Aloes, who were full of confidence, were never in the match, and were brought down to earth with a thud.
The Aloes will play the winner of the second division in a promotion/relegation match next Sunday. The Southern Stings, from the Western Cape, dominated the second division, winning all their matches comfortably. They beat the Northern Cape Diamonds on Saturday night and the Limpopo Baobabs on Sunday morning and will face latter in the semi-final next week.
The Kingdom Stars finished second on the log, two points ahead of the Diamonds. They beat the Baobabs on Saturday and the Mpumalanga Sunbirds on Sunday morning, while the Diamonds beat the Sunbirds on Saturday. For the Sunbirds, their part in the competition is over for this year. They lost all their matches and will spend next weekend as spectators.
Everyone involved has declared the Netball Cup a great success. Spar Proteas head coach Elize Kotze said it had been a lifesaver ahead of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next month. “We were to have played in a quad series in Dubai against England, Jamaica and Malawi, but that was cancelled. This tournament was like manna from heaven. It meant that our players could play hard competitive netball and hone their skills, and it also gave us an opportunity to see how everyone was doing, and what we still need to work on. Overall, I am very happy and I think we are going to be very competitive at the Games,” said Kotze.
Kotze said she had also been very excited by the number of younger players who had shone in the tournament, “The future is very good. We have seen that there is a lot of depth in our netball, and we can only get better from here on.”