The fourth day of the Spar National Netball Championships at the Ugu Sports Centre near Margate on Thursday was a tough one for Gauteng and Free State, who both had to play three matches, but both teams appear to be heading for the semi-finals. Their lunchtime encounter was the match of the day, with both teams trying to establish their authority ahead of the semifinal on Friday, where they are expected to play each other. Gauteng had the upper hand for most of the match, although Free State came back strongly in the third quarter, outscoring Gauteng by 12 goals to seven.
Gauteng turned on the power again in the final quarter, which they won by nine goals to six, to finish with a 37-29 victory. Gauteng goalshooter Ine-Marie Venter was the stand-out player, shooting from any part of the circle with a calm confidence that belied her 20 years. Coach Jenny Van Dyk says: ‘We’re peaking at the right time, and they have improved with every game. We still have two matches to play, but we definitely plan to play in the semis. We have been able to use all 12 players in the squad, which means they have been able to keep up with a very strenuous programme.’
Free State coach Burta de Kock said she was very proud of her young team: ‘They are gaining experience all the time and they are becoming more confident. They are stepping into the shoes of players like Adele Niemand, Karla Mostert and Maryka Holtzhausen. In the beginning, they thought they wouldn’t be able to do it, but now they believe they can. We lost a lot of balls against Gauteng, because of poor decision-making, but we can improve on that. We still have to qualify for the semi-finals, but I believe they will do it.’ In their earlier matches, Gauteng beat KwaZulu-Natal A1 46-27, while Free State beat Mpumalanga 45-28, before squeaking home 32-30 against Western Cape A1.
Eastern Cape and Western Cape A1 drew 27-all. The all-conquering North West, who have won every match so far, beat Eastern Cape 46-27, and Limpopo 53-20. Northern Cape recorded their first victory, with a 30-29 win over KwaZulu-Natal A2, but Western Cape A2 beat them 37-26, and Gauteng beat them 49-16.
Western Cape A2, who are hot on the heels of their A1 side, narrowly defeated Limpopo 35-33. Eastern Cape ended the day with a victory, beating KwaZulu-Natal A1 37-29. Mpumalanga beat KwaZulu-Natal A2 by 31 goals to 29. The battle for the fourth semi-final berth appears to be between the three Cape sides, with everything depending on the outcome of their matches on Friday morning, when Eastern Cape play Northern Cape, Western Cape 1 play KwaZulu-Natal 2 and Western Cape 2 play North West.
Photo credit: Reg Caldecott