Team SA struggle in Belgium
Johannesburg - Team SASOL South Africa fell to their second defeat at the Easter wheelchair basketball tournament in Blankenberge, Belgium on Friday night as they went down 59-29 against the Netherlands in game two.
After a tough build-up, the team had to do without star forward and their only professional player Richard Nortje for the second game against a strong Netherlands side, ranked in the top three in the world, and while they kept up with them in the first half, a poor third quarter again put paid to their hopes of a good result as the Dutch pulled away from 24-14 to 45-21.
The result came on the back of a 76-35 defeat to Canada in their opening game, where the inactivity of the last five months since the African Qualifying tournament took its toll.
Coach Patrick Fick was still positive after the defeat, even though their lack of playing time together had been ruthlessly exposed by the Dutch. With just less than five months to go before the London Paralympics, Fick believes his policy of pitting his team against the best teams in the business will pay off by the time they get to London.
"It was always going to be tough for us after we lost Richard Nortje in our first game. He was pushing so hard that he did his shoulder some damage.
"We're not too sure how his status will be for tomorrow but without him it was always going to be tough," Fick explained.
"We're just starting out our preparations and we can see a lot of unforced errors and turnovers happening. Players are just not sharp yet, we haven't even started our regular club series in South Africa, so we have a lot of work to do."
Despite the heavy defeats, Fick is hoping the time together will do the side good before they face World Champions Australia on Saturday and top European side Italy in their final two fixtures.
"There were some good performances, some of the guys are starting to take responsibility and at least the guys are sharing the ball a bit and playing as a team, so some good signs, despite the score," Fick explained.
"This is all about character-building stuff for us now, because these have been two heavy defeats. There is no denying that, and without Richard there we will have to dig deep and show a lot of courage and character and hopefully we can play well."