PORT ELIZABETH – Defending champions Tshwane will meet Mangaung Metro in the final of the Spar national netball championships on Saturday morning in Port Elizabeth. The battle for places in the final came down to a thrilling three-horse race with Dr Kenneth Kaunda (North West) the unlucky losers.
The three teams finished the round robin section on 16 points each and the finalists, the top two teams on the table, were decided on goal averages. Dr Kenneth Kaunda beat Cape Town 83-39 in their final match but lost out to Tshwane by 0.07 of a point on goal average. Dr Kenneth Kaunda will meet Cape Winelands in the playoff for third place early on Saturday.
“We conceded probably three too many goals,” lamented Dr Kenneth Kaunda coach Elsje Jordaan. “It’s tough that there are no semifinals. Now we have to play a team that finished four points behind us on the log for third place. But that’s the format and that’s the way it is.”
Initially, the A-section was to have been divided into two pools, with semifinals and a final. However, after the withdrawal of two teams, it was decided that the matches should be played on a round-robin basis, with each team playing each other. The congested schedule meant that teams often had to play three matches a day. Despite her disappointment, Jordaan said she fully supported the tournament being played on a district rather than provincial basis.
“The provincial system meant that it was the Brutal Fruit (Netball Premier League) played in a week, which did nothing to expand the game,” she said. “But in future, there must be rankings and there must be semifinals.”
Mangaung played two matches on Friday, racking up 106 goals to 20 against Bojanala (Rustenburg) and beating Nelson Mandela Bay 63-34. “We knew it was now or never and that we had to chase goals,” said Mangaung coach Burta de Kock. “I am very proud of the team. You need a lot of mental toughness when you play 10 matches in a week, and they have responded very well.”
Mangaung beat Tshwane in their round robin match, but De Kock said she expected a very tough match. “They will be making their plans and plotting how to beat us,” she said. “I will tell the players to be brave and to keep ball in hand.”
In other matches played on Friday, Tshwane squeaked home against Cape Winelands by 28 goals to 27 in a tense match in wet and windy conditions. Cape Town beat Nkangala (Middelburg) 79-12, and Cape Winelands beat Ehlanzeni (Nelspruit) 72-18.
Welcome rain fell in drought-stricken Port Elizabeth on Friday and with more rain forecast for Saturday, the final matches will be played at an indoor venue o Saturday.
African News Agency (ANA)