BRISBANE – The Spar Proteas stepped up a gear or two in their opening match of the 2017 SANZEA Quad Series netball competition in Brisbane, Australia, over the weekend when they came within seven goals of the New Zealand Silver Ferns, who beat them 63-56.
It was the Proteas’ second-lowest losing margin to the Silver Ferns in history, the previous lowest loss being a 2-goal loss at the 1967 Netball World Cup.
This is a huge advance for the Proteas, who lost by 31 goals the last time they played the Silver Ferns. In fact, had it not been for a flurry of unanswered goals by New Zealand in the third quarter, the South Africans could have been in with a chance of winning.
The Silver Ferns won the first quarter 18-16, but the Proteas won the second, 14-13, and were trailing New Zealand by just one goal (31-30) at halftime.
New Zealand came back strongly in the third quarter, which they won by eight goals, and South Africa won the last quarter 14-12.
Kiwi goalshooter Bailey Mes had an outstanding game, missing only one of her 36 shots at goal, and making life difficult for the South African defenders Phumza Maweni and Karla Mostert.
On the South African side, Lenize Potgieter, who has been playing league netball in New Zealand, succeeded with 43 goals from 49 attempts.
Proteas coach Norma Plummer said: "I’m thrilled my girls to have made such progress, and get to within seven goals of causing a major upset is incredibly satisfying.
"The aim and objective is to close the gap of the world’s top three teams and we are well on track to doing that.’’
Proteas captain Bongi Msomi was elated after the match. "We have come a long way, thanks to coach Norma," she said.
"We have been putting what she has taught us into practice and it’s proving effective. We are very excited about our performance today."
Asked how the Proteas felt about their match against the world champions, the Australian Diamonds, on Wednesday, Msomi said they were looking forward to it. "It’s what we came here for," she said.
"The only way we can improve is to test ourselves against the very best. I think we did well against the world number two team today, and we want to see how much we’ve improved when we play the world champions on Wednesday."
In the earlier match, the Diamonds beat the England Roses 54-50.