The Mpumalanga Sunbirds were jubilant after achieving their first Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League win, when they beat the Limpopo Baobabs 50-40 at the Pretoria University Sports Centre on Saturday. The two teams were neck and neck for most of the first quarter, which the Sunbirds won by 11 goals to seven, but the Baobabs came back strongly in the second quarter, outscoring the Sunbirds by 12 goals to nine. The Limpopo side went into the lead for the first time early in the third quarter, and maintained the lead for about six minutes before the Sunbirds came back strongly to finish the quarter with a nine goal lead.
Both sides fought hard for supremacy in the final quarter, with neither side able to dominate, but the Sunbirds had done enough to keep the team from Limpopo at bay. A baming Sunbirds coach, Jennie-Lee Delport says: ‘It’s our first win in the NPL. I was very happy with the way they played. We had an injury very early on, when the two centres collided, and our centre, Thabisile Mputhi, had to leave the court. I had planned to change centres at half-time, but I had to bring Rochel Erasmus on earlier than I had bargained for. I was very pleased with the way she played – she was slower than Thabi, but she did a good job of controlling the play. The players worked very well together, and even though they were tired at the end, they didn’t lose focus. I was also very pleased with our goalshooter, Palesa Mbukwana, who had a very good game. She was named Player of the Match in her first Brutal Fruit game.’ Delport said the Sunbirds had been following individual fitness programmes, and the results of beep tests conducted at a training camp showed that they were much fitter than they had been a year ago.
In their next match, on Sunday, the Sunbirds face the Eastern Cape Aloes, who were relegated to the second division last year, while the Baobabs take on the second-placed Kingdom Stars.