The Gauteng Jaguars sent defending champions the Free State Crinums a stern warning ahead of finals week in the Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League, beating them 55-34 in their last league match on Sunday. It was a thrilling match, with both teams putting in superb performances. After the first quarter, the Jaguars were two points ahead.
Five minutes into the second half, the Crinums drew level and then passed the Jaguars, who responded with five unanswered goals. At half-time, the Jaguars led 25-19, and then extended their lead with every succeeding quarter. Although there was a big difference in the scores, the match never petered out, with both teams playing with high intensity.
The defenders on both sides succeeded in stealing balls on the rebounds, and turning the ball over. Protea Karla Mostert had some breathtaking intercepts at goal defence for the Crinums, and while her opposite number fellow Protea, Shadine Van Der Merwe, had an outstanding game, and was deservedly named player of the match. At half-time, Crinums coach Burta De Kock made a number of changes, bringing on her young players, taking captain Maryka Holtzhausen off and moving Mostert from goal attack to wing attack.
Her young shooters found it hard going against Van Der Merwe and goalkeeper Jeanie Steyn and the Jaguars began to steam ahead. Jaguars coach Jenny Van Dyk says: ‘I think the Crinums backed off a bit in the second half and so we can’t relax and say we beat them by so much. What I’m pleased about is we had more turnover balls – between 11 and 13 a quarter – but I want even more. But they have set their own standards now and I am looking forward to them playing even better next week. I wasn’t concerned as much about the score as about the team getting the feel of the court – the rhythm, the intensity.’ She said during the week, her team would be focusing on pinpoint passing and communication between the players: ‘We must set the standard and not allow our opponents to dictate the match.’
De Kock said she had decided to introduce her bench players after half-time, because it would be her last opportunity to see how they would play under pressure: ‘I was able to try new combinations and let the bench players feel the positivity on court. I am not too concerned about losing today – it’s not how you start, it’s how you end.’ In the final last year, the Crinums, who had finished behind the Jaguars on the log, beat them 40-36 in extra time.