Proteas back on track in World Cup, but clash with world champs New Zealand awaits

Proteas back on track in World Cup, but clash with world champs New Zealand awaits
Proteas captain Bongiwe Msomi was a powerful centre court presence as South Africa scored a needed victory over Trinidad and Tobago in the second phase of the Netball World Cup in Cape Town. (Photo: Ashley Vlotman / Gallo Images / Netball World Cup 2023)

South Africa produced a more clinical performance — in attack and defence — to dismantle Trinidad and Tobago 69-28 on Monday evening in the Netball World Cup.

South Africa smashed Trinidad and Tobago 69-28 on Monday evening in their first match of the second phase of the pool stages to put their Netball World Cup aspirations back on track. 

After a slow start, the Proteas were absolutely dominant — despite not being completely clinical — in their Pool G outing. 

Facing their second Caribbean nation in succession, after going down 67-49 to Jamaica on Sunday, it was important for the host nation to show resolve in front of their home crowd. 

And the fans made their voices heard throughout the 60 minutes of play. 

South Africa’s defence was particularly impressive as they conceded only 16 points in the final three quarters, after conceding 12 in the opening one. 

“We changed things up a little bit. At the beginning of the game we had to see what moves they were doing,” said goalkeeper Nicola Smith, who was an aggressive defender throughout. 

“After the first quarter, we went back to the coach and she helped us and changed us strategically and it worked.” 

Nicola Smith of South Africa during the Netball World Cup 2023 Pool G match between South Africa and Trinidad and Tobago at Cape Town International Convention Centre Court 1 on 31 July 2023. (Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images / Netball World Cup 2023)

Cautious beginning 

A slew of changes for South Africa from their previous match, including a new defensive pairing of Karla Pretorius and Nicola Smith as well as Shadine van der Merwe at wing defence and Izette Griesel at wing attack, meant the home side struggled to find their groove in the early exchanges. 

Captain Bongiwe Msomi started the match in the centre position while regular centre Khanyisa Chawane was on the bench. 

Trinidad and Tobago scored the opening points through Afeisha Noel, who found freedom early in the clash. 

South Africa then overflowed the midfield with goal attack Nichole Taljaard spending most of the quarter around the centre circle. 

Her attacking partner, sharp-shooter Venter, meanwhile played nearly alone upfront, still easily able to put the ball in the net despite the lack of support. 

The tactic worked a charm as South Africa pulled out to a seven-point lead late in the first quarter.  

Phumza Maweni of South Africa and Afeisha Noel of Trinidad and Tobago compete for possession during the Netball World Cup 2023 Pool G match between South Africa and Trinidad and Tobago at Cape Town International Convention Centre Court 1 on 31 July 2023. (Photo: Ashley Vlotman / Gallo Images / Netball World Cup 2023)

Shutting up shop 

Coach Norma Plummer brought on Phumza Maweni to rejoin her reliable defensive partnership with Pretorius and the pair locked up the Caribbean attack, conceding only three points in the second quarter. 

An uncharacteristically slow start to the second quarter by Venter — missing three of her first four shots — meant the next 15 minutes had another stuttering start. 

The star shooter completed the quarter with 64% shooting accuracy — her worst quarter of the tournament thus far. 

“I think I just got in my head a little bit, overthought everything and [missed] silly shots under the posts … not the performance I wanted for myself,” Venter said after the encounter. 

Taljaard, at goal attack, carried the mantle, shooting 11 out of 13 goal attempts as South Africa went into the halftime break 33-15 up. 

Although there were two more quarters to play, coach Plummer recognised South Africa’s stronghold and made a number of substitutions heading into the back half of the match. 

One was the addition of Elmeré van der Berg who had been off-colour in the tournament, but she found some form in the less pressurised situation and knocked in 10 goals at 91% accuracy in the quarter. 

Taljaard was solid with eight goals as South Africa went into the final quarter an astonishing 51-21 points up, and was adjudged player of the match for her impressive 24-point haul.  

The final quarter was a formality and South Africa used the freedom of the occasion to flex their muscle in front of the sparse but noisy crowd. 

The loudest cheer of the match was heard when substitute Owethu Ngubane entered the fray for her debut Netball World Cup appearance — she replaced goal shooter Lenize Potgieter in the squad on Monday after the veteran suffered a knee injury in the Proteas’ loss against Jamaica. 

The debutant was able to get on the scoresheet with a solitary point to settle the nerves while Van der Berg continued with her previous quarter’s form to rack up 12 more goals to finish the match with 22 goals. 

After four days of non-stop action, South Africa next play reigning world champions New Zealand on Wednesday in a make-or-break clash for a spot in the semifinal before their final group game against Uganda on Thursday. DM


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