Cape Town - There was disappointment for South Africa when they went down 53-49 against Great Britain in the final of the inaugural World University Netball Championships in Cape Town on Saturday.
“I’m really proud of the players. They tried their hearts out and they never gave up,” said SA coach Dorette Badenhorst.
“They’re a great team of players and they stood together as a team, even though they had never played together before.
“I think they were excellent -- to come second in the world at university level, we can be really proud.”
Fighting it out to the bitter end, the scores were level at 46-all at the end of regular play, forcing the match into extra time.
It was a closely contested affair from the start with South Africa scoring the opening goal.
Britain’s Steffi Burt, with tentacle-like arms, was faultless in her shooting and able to snatch and draw the ball into her comfort zone from anywhere in the circle.
A costly miss by the home side allowed the English to take the lead, which they increased to four goals at one point.
With just over two minutes to go in the first quarter, South Africa drew level, but the opening period ended with the hosts trailing by two goals at 12-10.
South Africa made a couple of switches in the second quarter and the tactic worked well as the hosts matched the visitors goal-for-goal, closing out the first half two points down at 24-22.
After levelling the scores again at 25-25, South Africa went into the lead for the first time in the match, a few minutes into the third sector.
Proteas centre Bongi Msomi was tenacious in her play while Vanes-Mari du Toit and Karla Mostert were superb in defence.
After the third quarter ended one goal to South Africa’s advantage, at 35-34, the momentum was finally in their favour and they should have closed out the game in the last period of play.
However, they failed to capitalise on their possession and the lead fluctuated from one side to the other.
An intercept by Du Toit put South Africa in front by two goals, and they stretched their margin to three, but the experienced British side pulled it back and their goal in the dying seconds of regular time ensured a further seven minutes each way.
Both sides made uncharacteristic errors and, as the tension mounted, South African opportunities were missed.
The hosts lost focus and went behind 50-47 in the low-scoring first period of extra time.
They fared no better in the second half as they gave the ball away in their own circle, and England’s goal keeper, Kadeen Corbin, kept her cool to prevent the South Africans from scoring.
“We didn’t use all our opportunities but you always learn from a game like this,” Badenhorst said.
“Most of them have never played on an international stage before, so if we could have more games at this level, it would be excellent for the players.”