Ine-Mari Venter tussles with Francesca Williams.
Martin Rickett/Getty Images
- A gallant Proteas outfit narrowly lost 51-54 to World Cup runners up England in Manchester on Tuesday night.
- South Africa struggled to assert themselves in the first half as they were undone by the relentless goal scoring of Eleanor Cardwell.
- After the break, they were excellent though as they gave their more esteemed opponents a real run for their money.
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The Proteas were left ruing a slow and sloppy start as they narrowly lost 51-54 to England in the first of three Netball internationals on Tuesday night.
Outgoing head coach Norma Plummer once again underlined her immense influence on a talented South Africa group, epitomised by the fighting spirit shown by her charges after they trailed by a substantial eight-point margin at half-time.
Moreover, the fact that the Proteas could present opponents that claimed silver at the Netball World Cup earlier this year with a few headaches as the skirmish wore on said much for their burgeoning reputation.
The imposing Eleanor Cardwell, England’s outstanding goal shooter, dominated the opening exchanges as she punished South Africa’s propensity for sloppy handling and a mounting penalty count.
By the end of the first quarter, she had bagged 12 of her team’s 16 goals and would continue to find the basket to the extent that she could be rested for the final 15 minutes, even though England could’ve used her metronomic accuracy to close out the game more comfortably.
Called out by canny skipper Bongi Msomi for being too ponderous in possession, the Proteas were a team re-born after the break, cutting out their errors and snuffing out England’s quick-fire counterattacking with some muscular defence, spearheaded by a revitalised Karla Pretorius, who made some vital interceptions.
The faith shown by Plummer in the talented yet raw Kamo Maseko attested to the Australian’s nous and management.
The 21-year-old had somewhat surprisingly replaced Nichole Taljaard in the second quarter and showed some nerves initially, notably in coughing up possession twice.
Yet Plummer and her staff were undaunted, keeping her on the court and allowing her grow into the contest, a strategy that paid off as her greater dynamism as goal attack proved an ideal foil to the reliable Ine-Mari Venter in the goal ring.
South Africa would go on to “win” the third and fourth quarters 14-13 and 15-12 respectively, but some harsh introspection would reveal that they probably had the opportunity to nick a victory.
Venter clumsily hit the hoop’s frame in the third quarter when the Proteas needed to pull a goal back and, in a thrilling sequence, should have made better use of the final movement of that segment when a turnover and counter led to Cardwell silkily and brilliantly nailing a goal on the hooter.
It’s capitalising on those fleeting, vital moments that South Africa will see this team truly challenging the best in the world.
The second match is on Friday in Nottingham.