The Gauteng Jaguars take a slender one point lead into the final round of the Brutal Fruit Netball Cup Division 1 matches knowing that a win against the second-placed Free State Crinums on Saturday will guarantee them top spot heading into the semi-finals. With six games played and two to go in the preliminary phase of South Africa’s premier netball showpiece this weekend, the top four teams in both Division 1 and 2 will be desperate for a win as they seek to build up momentum ahead of the semi-finals next weekend. In the most eagerly anticipated match of Week 4 confidence will also be on the side of the Jaguars who wiped aside the Crinums 45—28 in their first round encounter.
But the Pretoria-based team will be first to admit that this one is too tight to call with both squads littered with SPAR Proteas and Baby Proteas. The Crinums hold the edge on experience with most of the team coming from the Manguang region team that won the SPAR National Netball Championships last year. They boast Proteas captain Maryka Holtzhausen as well as the Proteas star defensive pairing of Adele Niemand and Karla Mostert.
The Jaguars are not leading the table by luck, however, and have been solid in defence and attack and boast a 66 goal difference compared to the Bloemfontein outfit’s six points. Jaguars coach Jenny Van Dyk said she won’t have a problem motivating her young team who are already in the semi-finals, “I won’t have a problem at all. My players are hungry for success and they are very excited to be playing at such a high level on such a regular basis. Not having the pressure of a must win match though does give me the chance to try different combinations but it’s important that we go into next week’s semis high on confidence by ending the group stage in first place.”
Third place Gauteng Golden Fireballs who have found their rhythm of late after a difficult start host the North West Flames have beat their Potchefstroom-based rivals by just one point in their round 1 clash. Victory for either team will give them a tremendous boost of confidence heading into semi-finals on June 7. They will be well-aware of the fact that the Flames have lost four of their six games by a single point and they are due some luck.
The Jaguars and Fireballs will square off on Sunday in the second round of the Gauteng derby with the latter wanting to exact revenge on their northern neighbours after succumbing rather meekly 53-39 in their first round match. With little hope of making the semi-finals, the bottom of the table Eastern Cape Aloes will seek to go out with a bang this weekend and aim to pick up their first win from their two remaining fixtures. “It’s been a difficult tournament but we can take heart from our performances. We have two games to go and hopefully we’ll be able to pick up a win,” said coach Maryka Allaway.
In Division 2 the all-conquering Western Cape Southern Stings have one eye on the semi-finals and another on the promotion/relegation match against the last placed team in Division 1, more than likely the Eastern Cape Aloes. Unbeaten to date, the Stings will want to complete their final two games against the Northern Cape Diamonds and Limpopo Baobabs this weekend with two wins but will also use the opportunity to give a couple of their back benchers a run.
“We feel that we need to be in Division 1 and the players have shown that they need to be in the top division,” said coach Bennie Saayman. The Mpumlanga Sunbirds, who face the third-placed Diamonds on Saturday and the second placed Kingdom Stars on Sunday, go in search of their first point of the competition and can take comfort in knowing they have improved every week since their 71-14 loss to the Stings on opening weekend.