The Kingdom Stars beat the Mpumalanga Sunbirds 45-31 in the last league match at the Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League at the Pretoria University Sports Centre on Sunday. The Stars ended second on the log, and the Sunbirds finished fourth. Both will be in action again next weekend in the second division playoffs.
The Sunbirds, who are the most improved team in the competition, came out firing and finished the first quarter just two goals behind the Stars. However, the Stars gradually pulled away from them, to lead 23-15 at halftime. But the KwaZulu-Natal side were never able to completely dominate the game, as they had done in their first round match, when they thrashed the Sunbirds 65-26.
Both coaches made a number of changes, as they were trying out different combinations in preparation for the play-offs next weekend. Stars coach Marchelle Maroun says: ‘I don’t have a Super Seven. I have some star players, but there is no automatic line-up. We had a tough training session this morning, after losing to the Eastern Aloes yesterday, and I wanted to give the bench players the opportunity to put into action what we had practiced this morning.’ She said there were still things that could be worked on ahead of the play-offs, particularly making the centre pass count: ‘We also need to work on our defence.’
Sunbirds coach Jeni-Lee Delport said she was very happy with the way her team had progressed through the tournament: ‘We came out guns blazing at the start of the tournament, and we surprised a few people when we beat the Limpopo Baobabs and the Northern Cape Diamonds. They had to take us seriously after that, and coaches had to watch the videos of our games and work out how to play us. I think some people find us hard to play against, because I make a lot of changes. I am very happy with the way the team has grown and so pleased that today we lost by 14 goals, not 46. We’ve been gaining fans, and our support has grown. This year we’ve won followers, next year we’re going to win the second division.’
Photo by: Catherine Kotze/SASPA