Proteas de­lighted de­spite de­feat

South Africa go down to Eng­land in ex­tra-time af­ter an epic come­back

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - OCK­ERT DE VIL­LIERS

AGUTSY dis­play from the Proteas net­ball team had na­tional coach Nor­mal Plum­mer smil­ing af­ter the team’s nar­row 60-55 de­feat to Eng­land in their Quad Se­ries match in Dur­ban on Satur­day.

The score­line hardly re­flected the char­ac­ter the South African women showed and it would have been apt if the match ended in the 48-all stale­mate af­ter reg­u­la­tion time.

The Proteas erased an 11-point deficit af­ter the half­time break to come within a whisker of beat­ing the Eng­land Roses for only the sec­ond time in 22 years.

Plum­mer beamed with pride as the team con­ceded shortly be­fore the fi­nal whis­tle af­ter hold­ing a slen­der one­point lead.

“How can I be dis­ap­pointed with that? We’ve just come in leaps and bounds, that 11-goal turn­around is pretty good. You don’t get that too of­ten and I thought they were out­stand­ing,” Plum­mer said.

“We did ac­tu­ally have the game and then the um­pire de­cided Erin Burger’s knee was over the line, she didn’t be­lieve it was, so if we were able to put up that shot we would have won it.”

Play­ing in their first ex­tra-time de­cider, the Proteas saw the pres­sure get the best of them with the Roses tak­ing the match.

It was a vast im­prove­ment from their pre­vi­ous en­counter against Eng­land in the Quad Se­ries when they lost 57-44 in Melbourne in 2016.

“That is good and you have to cope with it but it is the first time they have played a team in the top three and take them to over time, so you have to ad­mire what they did,” Plum­mer said.

“We got there but we just didn’t fin­ish it off to win it out­right but I am ab­so­lutely de­lighted with ev­ery­thing they did, it’s been sen­sa­tional.”

Plum­mer made cru­cial tac­ti­cal re­place­ments af­ter the break re­plac­ing goal at­tack Renske Stolz with Lindie Lom­bard af­ter ear­lier bring­ing Izette Lubbe on in the place of cap­tain Bongi Msomi.

The Proteas coach said it was clear Eng­land had worked out Msomi and Stoltz af­ter stel­lar per­for­mances in the pre­vi­ous match.

The re­place­ments made an im­me­di­ate im­pact as South Africa blitzed to an 8-1 goal ad­van­tage in the first five min­utes of the third quar­ter.

Go­ing into the fi­nal quar­ter, the home side trailed Eng­land by just four points (38-34) be­fore they took the lead with nine min­utes left for the first time since the open­ing mo­ments.

The fi­nal min­utes of the fourth quar­ter turned into a tit-for-tat bat­tle be­tween the two sides as the lead changed a few times be­fore end­ing on a draw re­sult­ing in the ex­tra-time bat­tle.

South Africa will next face world cham­pi­ons Aus­tralia to­mor­row where they will be look­ing for an up­set against the world’s top net­ball team, who claimed a 57-50 vic­tory over New Zealand Ferns in the open­ing match on Satur­day.

“I know some of their (Aus­tralia’s) strengths and weak­nesses which I will share with the girls, it will be an­other step up, that’s for sure,” Plum­mer said.

“We now have to go out and build up to to­mor­row, we’ve got noth­ing to lose, we’ve put our­selves in this com­pe­ti­tion to chal­lenge at the top.

“It is the only way these play­ers will un­der­stand what it is like to be in the crunch when the pres­sure is re­ally on and get the win.” DE­FEND­ING BURGER: Erin Burger of South Africa, left, and Eng­land’s Jade Clarke con­test pos­ses­sion dur­ing their Net­ball Quad Se­ries match in Dur­ban on Satur­day. The vis­i­tors won 60-55 af­ter ex­tra-time.

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