Cape Town - The Proteas kept their title defence firmly on track with a second win at the Diamond Challenge netball tournament in Polokwane on Wednesday.
Botswana provided little challenge to the defending champions, who easily romped to an 83-16 victory – their largest winning margin over their neighbours to date.
The visitors could only manage to slot in two goals in the first 15 minutes, and while the Proteas weren’t looking quite as smooth as usual, it allowed them to surge to a 19-2 lead by the first break. While things did improve slightly for Botswana after the break, they simply battled to keep up with the pace.
Once again coach Norma Plummer was able to give all her players plenty of court time and try out some unusual combinations, as her side continued to dominate in all areas of the game.
Plummer admitted afterwards: “I just said to Botswana: ‘I’m sorry things were a bit tough, but there are things we’ve got to work on ahead of the Quad Series’. But there’s some good talent in there. It’s just a matter of getting the opportunities.”
As for her own team’s performance, the coach added: “We had different structures we were working on, but in the first eight minutes they didn’t deliver very well. So at the end of the first quarter I told them they’d gone out and done everything I’d asked them not to do.
“After that though it just became a short, sharp game with a lot of speed. I was very impressed – we’ve never played Lenize [Potgieter] out in front of Sigi [Burger] before – but these are the options we’ve got to have going into a World Championship. You never know when you might get an injury, and it just might be the move we need to win a game. So we have to take the opportunity to get as much out of these games as we can.”
Earlier in the afternoon, the SA President’s XII netball team also notched up their second win at the Ngoako Ramatlhodi Sports Complex.
Having edged out Zambia in a closely contested opening game on Tuesday, the SA side’s second encounter against Namibia was a much less nerve-wracking one for coach Jenny van Dyk.
The home side dominated from the start, playing the first quarter at a furious pace to race out to a 20-9 lead. They simply built the lead from there to finish as 61-31 winners.
“We felt better about everything, especially the first quarter. We were sinking those goals and the girls were connecting,” explained SA President’s XII captain Jessica Khomo.
“The coach’s instructions are very simple and very clear so it was easy and we’re happy that we dominated from the start. Starting off strong definitely brought the morale and confidence up for the girls.”
They’ll certainly need that confidence on Thursday when the team of up-and-coming young stars take on the SPAR Proteas in their next match.
“It’s going to be a very tough one. We respect the Proteas because they are our first team in the country but we aren’t going to sit back for that,” said Khomo. “We are here to grow and get game time and get that international experience, so it’s fantastic to be able to play with a team of that calibre and we’re not going to take it lightly.”
Meanwhile, Zambia and Zimbabwe fought a tight battle in the first match of the day. The Zimbabweans, who claimed an opening win against Botswana yesterday, looked to be continuing their form when they led Zambia 13-12 at the first break.
The Zambians came back at them in the second quarter, however, to edge ahead 26-24 by half time. It was still tight in the third quarter, but heading towards the end of the period, the Zambians managed to build on their lead to reach the final break six goals up.
It’s a gap they maintained to the end of the match, finishing with a scoreline of 57-51, for their first win of the tournament, after going down to the President’s XII in yesterday’s opener.
Zambian centre and captain, Elizabeth Bwalya said afterwards: “We’re excited. It feels great to get our first win of the tournament. We had never played the President’s XII so our first game, we didn’t know how they played but we’ve played Zimbabwe on several occasions so we know how they play. I think that was the difference today. Yesterday we lost a lot of our balls so we talked a lot about that and managed to keep the ball.”