10 June 2014
The Free State Crinums held their nerve to win the inaugural Brutal Fruit Netball Cup, beating the Gauteng North Jaguars 40-36 in a final that went into extra time on Sunday.
As the first semi-professional netball competition in South Africa’s history, it is expected that it will be a game-changer for the sport in the country.
The final was a thriller throughout, with both teams giving their all, and it was only in the last few minutes of extra time that the experienced Crinums were able to get away from the young Jaguars team.
Ahead by 16-14 at halftime, the Crinums were still two goals clear after the third quarter, but the Jaguars came back hard in the final quarter, scoring five unanswered goals to draw level at 28-all.
The goals were going according to the centre pass, until the Jaguars went into the lead for the first time, with just a minute to go to the final whistle.
They tried to run down the clock, throwing the ball around in the centre court, until an over-enthusiastic long pass was snatched up by the Crinums, who swiftly moved to their own end, where their captain and goal attack, Maryke Holtzhausen, scored a brilliant goal from the edge of the circle to equalise the scores at 31-all, with just remaining seconds before the full time whistle.
The match went into extra time, seven minutes each way, and the teams exchanged goal for goal, finishing level on 35-all after the first period. In the last seven minutes, the Crinums’ greater experience came to the fore.
The Jaguars had lost their zip, and although they threw everything they had at the Crinums, the Free State team held their nerve and the two experienced Spar Protea defenders, Karla Mostert and Adele Niemand, were able to steal the ball from the Jaguars shooters, Melissa Myburgh and Lindie Lombard, who managed only one goal in the last seven minutes.
Holtzhausen and Rieze Straeuli, on the other hand, scored five, and by the time there were only two minutes on the clock, it was clear that the Crinums had won.
‘What a final should be’
“It was a wonderful final. That’s what a final should be,” said a beaming Holtzhausen after the game.
“We thought we had let it slip away from us, and then they made a tactical error and we were able to steal the ball and equalise.
“When we went into extra time, we were psyched up and we knew we were going to win, because the Jaguars were down after letting the game get away from them.”
Holtzhausen also praised the Jaguars, saying they had been an outstanding team throughout the competition.
“Their team cohesion was fantastic, and each time we played them, we struggled to break that cohesion. They are young and they are just going to get better and better,” she said.
An ecstatic Free State coach, Burta de Kock, said she was thrilled with what the new competition had brought to netball in the country.
“We are lucky to have such a competition and we want to thank Netball South Africa and all the sponsors who made this possible for us, and we are looking forward to a wonderful career for [netball] players in South Africa,” she said.