SA ends Netball World Champs on a high

11 July 2011

South Africa’s netball team finished the World Netball Championships in Singapore on a high on Saturday when they claimed first place in Africa and fifth place in the world rankings. Putting the cherry on the top, Erin Burger was named Player of the Tournament.

“I’m over the moon,” Burger told Netball South Africa after winning the prestigious award.

“It was really unexpected. I don’t have words to express how proud I am.”

Contrast

The South African side’s fifth place finish and the sense of optimism that came with it was in stark contrast to how the team performed and how it felt after its opening Pool C game against Jamaica on 4 July.

The Jamaicans were ranked just above South Africa in the world rankings and the sides appeared well matched as the game got under way.

It was goal for goal until the end of the first quarter when the Jamaicans managed to open up a four-goal advantage at 15-11. They then dominated the next quarter 19-9 to go into the half 34-20 ahead. From there they pulled well clear to record a big 72-45 win.

Back foot

The loss in their opening encounter set South Africa’’s challenge on the back foot, and meant they needed to win their next two pool matches to reach the quarterfinals of the tournament.

In their next game, hosts Singapore were well supported by a patriotic crowd and started strongly to lead 15-13 after the first quarter.

South Africa turned the contest on its head in the second quarter, however, dominating it 19-6 to take a 32-21 lead into the break. They continued to put space between themselves and the hosts in the remainder of the game and triumphed 70-33.

With Jamaica having defeated Botswana and South Africa’s neighbours having beaten Singapore in the tournament opener, it came down to South Africa versus Botswana to decide which Pool C team joined the Jamaicans in the quarterfinals.

Narrow lead

Botswana, ranked 10 places below South Africa, came out of the blocks strongly and led 11-9 after the first quarter. South Africa won the next quarter 14-7 to take a narrow 23-18 lead into half-time.

After the restart South Africa took charge and two 17-10 quarters saw them to a convincing 57-38 victory.

The Proteas’ early loss to Jamaica left them with a very tough quarterfinal showdown against world number one New Zealand.

Shut down

South Africa started brightly and led 11-10 after the opening quarter. After that, however, they were shut down by the Silver Ferns, with former South African star Leana de Bruin performing brilliantly on defence on her way to a player of the match winning performance as the Kiwis went on to a 58-28 victory.

As a result of their loss to New Zealand, South Africa was left to battle it out for fifth to eighth places with Northern Ireland, Malawi, and Trinidad and Tobago. First up for the South Africans was Northern Ireland.

In a tight match, South Africa capitalised on Irish errors to run out 46-41 victors and set up a clash with African champions Malawi for fifth place.

Nemesis

The Malawians had finished fifth in the previous edition of the World Championships and had proven to be South Africa’s nemesis in recent times. It appeared that story would continue when the Malawi opened up a 15-10 lead after the first quarter in the battle for fifth.

South Africa, though, had other ideas and hit back hard in the second quarter as they took over control of the midcourt. By the break, Amanda M ynhardt’s team led 28-26.

They continued their dominance in the third quarter, taking it 17-9 to lead 45-35, which looked like a comfortable margin, but the Malawians were not yet done. Their goal shooter Mwayi Kumwenda and goal attack Sindi Simtowe were in fine form and ultimately missed only one of 50 shots in the game, and they combined to bring Malawi within breathing distance of South Africa in the final quarter.

However, it was too little too late for Malawi as they came up two goals shy, with South Africa claiming a 52-50 victory.

Final

Australia successfully defended their world title in a scintillating final against New Zealand, which went to extra time. In front of a very loud crowd, the Diamonds edged it 58-57.

Former South African Irene van Dyk starred for New Zealand, scoring 34 points on 34 out of 35 shooting.

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