KINGSTON, Jamaica: The South African netball team’s win over Jamaica on Tuesday night was the first time in 28 years the Proteas had beaten them.

Despite losing the three Test series 2-1, the Proteas’ 56-49 victory over the Sunshine Girls is considered to be a turning point for the team. The Proteas had regrouped since their last Test on Sunday and looked a confident and collected team.

“I was really disappointed after the previous Test,” said Proteas coach Elize Kotze.

“I was hard on the girls and told them that they had to believe in themselves and if they did they would believe in the team and play as a strong unit.”

The inspiration seemed to work as the Proteas played a consistently aggressive attacking game throughout the four quarters thereby limiting the Jamaicans’ scoring chances.

Fired up in the first quarter, the South Africans turned two balls around within minutes of the start and after only three minutes led 4-0. The outstanding combination of Amanda Mynhardt (goal defence) and Vanes-Mari du Toit (goalkeeper) restricted the tall Jamaican shooter Shanielle Fowler, allowing SA to lead 17-13 at the end of the first quarter.

The Proteas made a strong second half start and turned around four balls to take a 22-15 lead but the Sunshine Girls struck back. Their popular captain, Nadine Bryan, playing in her 100th Test, made two crucial interceptions which seemed to throw the Proteas slightly off course and they lost the second quarter 13-14, diminishing their lead to 30-27.

After the halftime break, the hometown favourites stepped up a gear and equalled the score for the first time in the game at 30-30.

They turned the ball around, intercepted and rattled the South Africans and were soon five goals in the lead, and were ahead 44-38 going into the final quarter. A brave performance and a much higher intensity was evident in the Proteas and they levelled at 44-44.

Good combinations and great goal shooting saw the Proteas take a five-point lead (50-45) and even ankle-strapped Fowler could not make a difference.

The Proteas sensed victory and kept their composure with Maryka Holtzhausen netting two goals from the base of the circle with minutes to spare. The Proteas won the final quarter 18-5 and the Test 56-49.

“What a win, what a performance, I am so proud of my girls!” exclaimed Kotze. “This win could be the start of new and great things for the team and netball in South Africa.”

Kotze had made a change to her starting line-up by switching Mynhardt to goal defence and Du Toit to keeper.

“I thought hard about what would be best for the team. I think the changes made a difference,” Kotze said. – Sapa