JOHANNESBURG – The Proteas netball team have good reason for optimism after pushing the top two sides in the world, Australia and New Zealand, to the brink of defeat in their last two matches.
Last weekend’s four-point defeat to the Aussies in the Quad Series was their smallest losing margin ever, while the Silver Ferns’ 51-46 victory on Thursday night was the lowest over the Proteas since 1995.
The South Africans got within two points in the third quarter, but failed to convert crucial turnovers in the final 15 minutes into points to claim a famous victory over the number two side in the world in Johannesburg on Thursday evening.
Legendary Australian Norma Plummer, the Proteas’ coach, said her charges were closing the gap, but would benefit from some patience on the court.
“It was poor decision-making at the end where we had such sensational turnovers, brought it down to the other end, then blew it,” Plummer said.
“But this is the learning curve and you’ve got to have that X-factor to finish off… the game wasn’t what you’d call an absolute skilled game, but it was a pressure game for both teams.”
Plummer said the Proteas have earned the respect from the top sides in the world, and the narrow defeats gave them a lot of food for thought ahead of the Commonwealth Games in Australia in April.
“New Zealand knew they had to have their foot down all the time. I’ve got to raise the fact that it was a seven-point loss the last time, and it is only five this time,” Plummer said.
“It is getting closer, so we’ve got to learn how to finish off. These are sensational Commonwealth Games preparation games for us.
“So now that when we go into the Games, there is no guessing what is going to happen. It is all out on the floor, and I think the players know and understand.”
South African captain Bongiwe Msomi believed playing in front of a boisterous home crowd in Johannesburg was the perfect opportunity to beat the Silver Ferns.
“At this stage, where we either get two goals in front or are two goals behind, I think it is just a matter of now getting that concentration.
“I am quite impressed with the team’s performance, but still disappointed because I really thought we could take this game.”
The Proteas will next face the England Roses in their final Netball Quad Series match at a packed Ellis Park Indoor Arena on Sunday.