Proteas delighted despite defeat
South Africa go down to England in extra-time after an epic comeback
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.