They did it!
The South African netball team has come of age, beating world number three England 39-37 in Port Elizabeth in the final of the tri-series.
South Africa trailed for most of the game, before managing to sneak ahead in the last stage of the third quarter and held on to the delight of their home crowd.
30 year old shooter Chrisna Bootha was on fire in the final stages of the match and rock solid under pressure throughout the watershed win.
South Africa’s midcourt continued to dominate with Bongiwe Msomi again outplaying Serena Guthrie and was ably assisted by fellow speed-star Simnikiwe Mdaka.
Karla Mostert proved again to be the intercept queen in defence.
This is South Africa’s first win over England since their side, which featured Irene van Dyk, scored six straight wins against the English in the mid-1990s.
After languishing on the netball scene for years, South Africa finally looks to be back in business; the win follows their victory over Jamaica in Kingston last year.
Coach Elize Kotze said: “I am just so happy for these girls and for netball under extremely difficult circumstances. It’s like for the first time these girls fired on all cylinders and they were superb. Our goal was to beat one of the top 3 teams this year and we have achieved that.”
It must be noted this is almost the same English side that beat the Australian Diamonds 3-0 earlier this year and therefore 2013 must be noted for a breakthrough year for depth in international netball. England was without Jo Harten and Geva Mentor, while South Africa was missing Vanes du Toit, Erin Burger, Claudia Basson and Amanda Mynhardt. All of these players are expected to be back in action next year.
For England their attack line was bursting with athleticism and flair, though they lacked timing and a central playmaker. With Cookey, the Corbins and Guthrie all playing fast and furious, error after error occurred.
Sasha Corbin in particular has struggled to find her feet in recent tests and risks losing her place in the Commonwealth Games side. Meanwhile some in England think the team would be best served by the return of steady hands in veteran players Tamsin Greenway, Ama Abgeze and 34 year old Sonia Mkoloma next year, though it is unclear which of those players will be available for the Commonwealth Games.
The other team in the series, Trinidad Tobago, were less than impressive. The Calypso Girls were slow, unfit, unskilled, undisciplined and their coach made some particularly strange selection decisions in each of their big losses, including benching their best players for the start of the second test, persisting with holding shooter Afeisha Noel in goals (despite Noel shooting just 3-4 goals in some entire halves during these matches) and running their girthy goal-keeper at centre.
What was particularly confusing is why Kalifa McCollin was left out of the starting seven after being a clear best-on-court during their first match. McCollin was never given the chance to line-up alongside her club teammate Joelisa Cooper in goals, though this would appear to be their strongest combination. Trinidad brought over two 37 year old veteran goalers who did not see one minute of court-time during the series. One of those was Anastacia Wilson, who has previously played as an import for Manchester Thunder in the UK Superleague. The other is Simone Morgan, who was recalled to the team for the first time since 2007, though she might have been sitting on the bench wondering, “why did I even bother?”
On this form Trinidad will almost certainly be battling out for last place at next year’s Commonwealth Games, where all three sides are drawn in the same pool.
South Africa hosts Zimbabwe and Zambia next week in Port Elizabeth. England will host New Zealand and Jamaica at home early next year.
By: Luke Williams
On: 27 Oct 2013
Photos: Richard Huggard