South Africa retained their netball Diamond Challenge title with an emphatic 68-34 victory over Zimbabwe at the University of Durban-Westville on Wednesday night. The Proteas stamped their authority on the match from the start and were 18-11 up after the first quarter. That was Zimbabwe’s most successful quarter, as they were unable to reach double figures in the succeeding quarters.
The match was played at a very fast pace, and the Zimbabweans gave a good account of themselves, but the vastly more experienced South Africans were just too much for them. The South African midfielders were all outstanding, with Precious Mthembu at wing defence and Bongi Msomi at wing attack snatching balls from midair and turning over balls on numerous occasions. There were some thrilling passages of play and the Zimbabwean wing attack, Perpetua Siyachitema once again enthralled the crowd with her speed and footwork.
South Africa’s Precious Mthembu
The three South African shooters, Sigi Burger, Lenize Potgieter and Renske Stoltz all had very good games. Potgieter played first at goal attack and then at goalshooter and her calm presence in the circle did much for the South African cause. Coach Norma Plummer says: ‘A job well done. We’d played Zimbabwe before, so we knew what to expect. I started with a different line-up, because what I have been trying to do since I’ve been here is introduce new options and different styles of play. I think they have all responded well, and they are picking up on all the new ideas. It has been very rewarding as a coach.’
She says the performance of the President’s XII was also very pleasing, because it showed the depth of South African netball. The earlier match, between Uganda and the President’s XII, ended in a thrilling 54-all draw, after Uganda led for most of the match. Uganda dominated the first half, leading 12-8 after the first quarter and 27-24 at half-time.
The President’s XII drew level with three minutes to go in before the halftime whistle, but Uganda responded with three goals in a row. The third quarter also belonged to Uganda, who outscored the President’s XII by 15 goals to 13. In the final quarter, the President’s XII fought back.
With just 90 seconds to go, they went into the lead for the first time. The ball swung from end to end, with the defence on both sides giving everything they had. Uganda went into the lead again and Lindie Lombard scored the equalizing goal in the dying seconds.
Photo credits: Gerhard Duraan