After four weeks of all out action it’s finals week in the Brutal Fruit Netball Cup and with everything to play for the form book has been thrown out of the window. In Division 1 the Gauteng Jaguars finished on top of the log but in the semi-finals at the Pretoria University Sports Centre on Saturday, they come up against the North West Flames – one of only two teams to beat them in the league stages. “When we started, our goal was just to qualify for the semifinals. We are one of the younger teams, and we had no expectation of finishing on top of the log. We had a fantastic first round, when we didn’t lose a single match, but we were brought back to earth in the second, when we lost to the North West Flames and the Golden Fireballs. I have made my plans for the semifinal against the Flames. Dorette (Badenhorst, the Flames coach) and I play the same style of netball, and we have locked horns several times. She comes with a strategy, I counter her, and so on. I think if we stick to our plans, we will win, and I believe we can win the cup,” said Jaguars coach Jenny van Dyk.
The other semi-final is between the second-placed Free State Crinums and third placed Golden Fireballs. The Crinums beat the Fireballs in their first encounter, but their second match ended in a thrilling 32-all draw. While the Crinums were consistent throughout the competition, they lost their last two league matches, going down to the Jaguars and more surprisingly, the bottom of the log Eastern Aloes, who squeaked home by 33 goals to 32. The Fireballs, on the other hand, ended their league on a high, when they beat the Jaguars 47-42.
The Fireballs started the competition slowly, but got better with every match, and coach Martha Mosoahle-Samm was confident that her players were hitting their straps at the right time. “I believe we can go all the way and win the cup,” she said. The Aloes, who won only one match, will not be in action until Sunday, when they take on the winner of the second division in a promotion-relegation match.
In the Division 2, there does not appear to be a team that can challenge the Southern Stings, who breezed through the league stages, winning every match without raising a sweat and are surely head for the promotion-relegation match against the Aloes. “We believe we belong in the first division, and we are determined to get there. It will be a tough weekend, but I have no doubt that we will be in the first division next year,” said coach Bennie Saayman. The Stings will play the Limpopo Baobabs in the semifinals, with the Kingdom Stars, who finished second on the second division log, taking on the Northern Cape Diamonds in a semifinal that could be closely contested.
The Mpumalanga Sunbirds, who lost every match, will watch the finals weekend from the stands, hoping that they can make the semifinals next year. The semifinals and the second division final will be played on Saturday and the promotion-relegation and the first division final on Sunday.