Top Of The Table Spot Up For Grabs

The Free State Crinums and the Gauteng Jaguars go head to head this week in the battle for top spot in the final round of matches ahead of the play-offs in the Brutal Fruit Netball League.  Top spot is still up for grabs especially as the three highest ranked team play crucial matches against each other this week.  The Gauteng Jaguars have two crucial matches and number defending champions and log leaders the Free State Crinums and the North West Flames who are level on points with them.

Whoever, ends top has the luxury of playing the fourth placed team, most likely the Southern Stings, which is the easier route to the final.  Positions two and three will then have to slug it out in what has to date been unpredictable encounters.  The Jaguars vs Crinums game will be an absolute showpiece the likes of the Crinums Proteas stars Maryka Holtzhausen, Adele Niemand, Lauren-Lee Christians and Karla Mostert going head to head with the Jaguars impressive selection of Melissa Myburgh, Lenize Potgieter, Erin Burger, Shadine Van Der Merwe, Lindie Lombard and Izette Lubbe.

Jaguars coach Jenny Van Dyk has her eyes on the top spot and expects a world class performance from her team, saying:  ‘I would like to see a team that gives out a consistent display each and every quarter.  I think we executed our game plan and strategy better but our intensity was not impressive.  Next week is very important for us because it will determine which are the teams who will finish on top of the log.  So we will go back and work on the errors we have been making and come out an even better team next week.’  With so much at stake, the match between the Jaguars and the Crinums on Sunday should be a thriller.  Both teams are centred around strong university squads, who play together on a regular basis, and both teams will want the confidence before the final weekend.

So far, the Jaguars are the only team to have beaten the Crinums, and they will want to maintain that record.  The Crinums’ decorated coach Burta De Kock is well aware of the task the lies ahead, saying:  ‘I’m always looking for more consistency, and we we’ve worked hard on that during the coming week.  We have two tough matches this weekend, against the Jaguars and the Stings, and we need to start well in both matches.  We lost to the Jaguars in the first round, because we had a bad start.  Things will be different this time around because we have learnt from our mistakes and we are preparing for war.  I am very happy with how we have come as a team and we can win this title again.’  The Flames also go into the final round of matches knowing that they have their destiny in their own hands.

When they met the Jaguars in the first round, the Flames beat the under-strength Gauteng outfit by a hefty 55 goals to 36.  But since then the Jaguars have their five Proteas back from international duty, and the likes of goalshooter Lenize Potgieter, goal attack Melissa Myburgh and centre Erin Burger will play a major role.  However, the Flames have a star for the future in Sigi Burger, who is one of the most consistent shooters in the tournament, as well as a raft of experience to make them a formidable force.

Flames coach Dorette Badenhorst says:  ‘We are focussing our formations this week and have been working hard for the coming matches.  We are going to take it one match at a time and make sure we do well.  The level of competition is very high and we have to match that at all times.  We have to make sure we keep possession all the time to prevent the opposition launching the attack on us.  There’s a lot of talent on display and I think every team is playing good quality netball so we must also be at our best.’  The Crinums’ other match is against the Southern Stings, a team that wants to emphasise that it has the right to play in the first division.  Their last encounter was a close one, with the Crinums winning 43-38.

But both teams were without three star players, who were with the national team, and Saturday’s match should get the pulses racing.  The Golden Fireballs have two opportunities to salvage some pride with a first victory, when they play the Stings on Friday and the Flames on Saturday.   They will need to pull out all the stops against two teams that have been looking good throughout the competition.

In the second division, the match of the weekend will be the finely poised encounter between log leaders the Eastern Aloes and the second-placed Kingdom Stars.  The Aloes are unbeaten so far, and the Stars have lost just one match – to the Aloes.  A win for the Stars will draw them level on point with the Aloes and could see them take the top spot on goal difference but the teams will likely face each other in the Division 2 final.  They are both sure of a place in the final, but will want to stamp their authority before the final.

The winner of the second division final will play the bottom team in the first division in a promotion/relegation match.

Photo credit: Christiaan Kotze/SASPA