POLOKWANE – Proteas goal attacker Maryka Holtzhausen celebrated her 100th cap for the national netball team who scored a runaway 78-28 over Namibia in the six-team tournament opener at the Ngoako Ramatlhodi Sports Complex in Polokwane on Tuesday.
It was always going to be a tough start for the Namibians, who have failed to beat South Africa in nine previous encounters and are ranked 23 places below them in the world.
It was a particularly significant venue for Holtzhausen reaching the milestone, considering the 31-year-old made her debut in the Limpopo city 11 years ago and hasn’t played there in national colours since.
She is just the second Proteas player to reach the century mark, after teammate and good friend Erin Burger (109), who played the first quarter of the match.
“I don’t think it’s that different from when I played my first game at the same venue all those years back,” she admitted afterwards.
“The nerves before the game never go away, but I’m relieved it’s over. There was a lot of hype before the time and now I can actually say I’m a 100-capped player.
"I never thought I would have 100 caps for South Africa, but playing at the same venue where I started, it’s amazing. It’s a very special day for me and my teammates have made it even more special. I really appreciate it.”
Proteas captain Bongi Msomi was pleased with her team’s first outing, saying: “We felt good. There are quite a few things we still want to work on, but it was just great to step out on court as a team again and get some great passages of play.
“It was a good start but obviously we are never satisfied so we’d like to keep getting better from here.
“Everyone had time on court and it was pretty amazing - they all did really well, so I think that’s a great take out of this game.”
In other opening day match between Zimbabwe and Botswana was a much tighter one than the first. There were just two goals separating the teams at halftime, but the Zimbabweans then surged ahead to claim a 43-30 win.
Despite the win, Zim coach Lloyd Makunde wasn’t particularly happy with his players. “They didn’t play well. There were a lot of mistakes. Our passing was pathetic today, so we’ll go back to the drawing board with a training session in the morning to try to rectify that.”
In a thrilling finale to the opening day, the other South African team in the tournament, the President’s XII, went head-to-head with Zambia. A phenomenal effort late in the game saw SA taking the lead and eventually finishing as 48-46 winners.