SA shoot their way into semis
Maryke Holtzhausen (Gallo)
Johannesburg - Superb shooting by Chrisna Bootha and Maryke Holtzhausen helped South Africa surprise the pundits on Saturday by storming into the semi-finals of the Fast5 World Netball Series in Auckland, New Zealand.
The day started superbly for the Spar South African team when they hung on to beat the Australian Diamonds 28-27 in their first match of the day.
The Proteas had a narrow 5-6 lead after the first quarter, but the Diamonds came back strongly in the second, adding seven points with the South Africans able to score only one goal.
The Proteas nominated the third quarter for their power play, where goals are doubled in value, and Bootha got them off to a great start with a super goal, or goal scored from outside the circle.
The Proteas added 16 points in the quarter, to the five scored by Australia and then managed to keep the Diamonds from scoring too freely in their power play final quarter.
With the seconds ticking down, the Proteas held onto possession until the final whistle to deny the Diamonds a goal which would have given the world champions their first win of the tournament.
The difference between the two teams was that Bootha and Holtzhausen both succeeded with super goals, which are worth three points and six during a power play, while the Australians scored none.
The Proteas were brought back to earth with a bump in their second match, when they were completely outplayed by New Zealand, who beat them 52-19.
The very experienced Silver Ferns, who included former Proteas Irene van Dyk and Leana de Bruin, played a very defensive game, making it difficult for the Proteas to get into a position to shoot. The only points South Africa scored in their power play quarter came from a six-pointer by Bootha.
“The players will have to learn to come down from a high, and focus on their next game,” said coach Lana Krige, while goal defence Vanes-Mari du Toit said she thought the Proteas may have been over-confident.
“I think, after beating Australia, we may have under-estimated New Zealand,” said Du Toit.
But the Proteas were certainly not guilty of under-estimating their final opponents of the day, the Malawi Queens.
The rivalry between the two African teams is one of the fiercest in world netball, and there was the added incentive of a semi-final berth for the winner.
The Queens were still celebrating their victory over England, while the Proteas’ loss to New Zealand made them even more determined to win.
In the first half, South Africa maintained a very narrow lead over the Queens, but the Proteas surged ahead in the third quarter, which they had once again chosen for their power play.
Bootha and Holtzhausen added 26 points in the quarter, to put South Africa into an almost unassailable 43-28 lead. Malawi selected the final quarter for their power play, but were unable to add more than six points.
Once again, it was the South Africans’ strength in the two and three point zones that made the difference.
South Africa will play England in the semi-finals on Sunday, while New Zealand will play Jamaica.