The KZN Kingdom Stars stayed on track for the second division final by beating the Northern Cape Diamonds 56-50 in their Brutal Fruit Netball Premier league match on Sunday. The Stars had the game under control and at half-time were 29-23 ahead. Coach Marchelle Maroun made a number of changes at halftime, bringing on Protea Precious Mthembu on and moving fellow Proteas centre Bongi Msomi to wing attack.
The two Proteas guided the other members of the team and the Stars surged ahead, scoring 15 goals to the Diamonds’ 10. However, the final quarter saw a complete change as the Diamonds stormed back, closing the gap minute by minute. The Stars appeared to lose focus and started making unforced errors, while the Diamonds seemed to have found their mojo, winning the quarter by 17 goals to 12.
Diamonds coach Elsje Van Der Merwe says: ‘I had changed my goalkeeper in the third quarter, and that wasn’t working, so I brought Cormari Van Der Merwe back. I think she wanted to show me I’d been wrong to take her off, and she really rose to the challenge. Also, Precious (Mthembu) was injured, and during the injury break the players told me they were going to make it happen. They stepped up two clicks and we really nailed that quarter. That is all very positive for next weekend, when we play the Limpopo Baobabs and the Mpumalanga Sunbirds. We have to win both those matches and I think we will – the players now believe in themselves, and I’m feeling very positive about next weekend.’ Van Der Merwe was also pleased with her player of the match wind defence Nadia Van As, who did well to keep Msomi in check. Maroun was somewhat shell-shocked by the final quarter, saying: ‘I think it was a lack of fitness and a lack of focus. I have been playing some of my younger players, and I think some of them are not ready for this level. But I am very pleased that I have been able to play all 18 players in my squad. I think it’s very hard for players to be named in the squad, and then not even get to travel to Pretoria. So I have achieved that goal.’
Maroun said the Stars were focusing on reaching the play-offs, and moving up to the first division: ‘That is our goal, and I know we can do it.’
Photo credit: Christiaan Kotze/SASPA