The Free State Crinums proved they are the team to beat in the Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League with a comprehensive 43-29 victory over the Southern Stings on Saturday. The Stings were better than the scoreline suggests, and it was only in the second half that the Crinums were able to stamp their authority. At half-time, the Crinums were 22-15 ahead, and they pulled away from the Western Cape team in the third and fourth quarters. The previous time they met, each team was without three Proteas stars, and the Crinums won that match 43-38.
But they were both back to full strength, and the presence of national captain Maryka Holtzhausen at goal attack was very evident. She scored some outrageous goals from all over the circle, including one on the run as she passed the goalpost on her way to landing outside the court. Crinums goal defence Karla Mostert was outstanding and there could be no argument about her player of the match award.
Her height, long arms and agility made life very difficult for the Stings shooters, and she and goalkeeper Adele Niemand were superb at collecting the rebounds and turning over the ball. The match was played at pace, with both teams achieving numerous intercepts and turnovers. Crinums coach Burta De Kock says: ‘We met the goals we set for ourselves, and I’m very happy about that. There was a bit of loose control in the third quarter, but we can work on that. I was able to try out some new combinations – I moved Lauren-Lee Christians from centre to wing attack, and that helped us to put more pressure on the Stings.’
Their next match is against the second-placed team, the Gauteng Jaguars, on Sunday – a match that is expected to be a rehearsal for the final next week. The Jaguars won their first-round encounter, and Sunday’s match should be a thriller. De Kock says: ‘It’s going to be a very hard match, and it will be back to basics.’ Stings manager, Shela Lekalakala, said her team had had some good moments, but had struggled against the height of the Crinums in both centres: ‘We’ll work on the basics, including the placement of the ball, and we know we have to have more man-on-man defence in our play-off match next week, when we will probably face the Crinums again.’