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Proteas draw thriller with New Zealand while Jamaica and Sri Lanka claim victories

Hosts South Africa and defending world champions New Zealand produced the match of the Netball World Cup 2023 so far, playing out to a thrilling 48-all draw in Cape Town on Wednesday. In the other matches of the day, Jamaica claimed an emphatic victory over Trinidad and Tobago while Sri Lanka earned their first win of the tournament by defeating Barbados.

SOUTH AFRICA 48-48 NEW ZEALAND  

South Africa kept their slim hopes of reaching the Netball World Cup 2023 semifinals alive with a spirited performance against world champions New Zealand at a packed CTICC in Cape Town on Wednesday.

With the raucous local crowd effectively an extra member of the team, the Proteas came close to beating the Silver Ferns for only the second time in World Cup history. The draw in Pool G now means there is still a chance of progressing to the semifinal. For this to happen, Jamaica would have to beat New Zealand on Thursday while South Africa would have to do the same against Uganda. Goal percentage could prove problematic for the Proteas, however.

Goal attack Nichole Taljaard earned her second Most Valuable Player award of the tournament. It was her shot, with three seconds left in the match, that drew the scores level. Taljaard had an outstanding match, occupying the space in the goal circle well with her ability to shoot from further away a distinct advantage. She also remained calm under the massive pressure of facing the reigning world champions.  

South Africa put in a huge defensive effort in the first half of the match egged on by the deafening shouts of “defence, defence” by the South African spectators in the stands. Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua started ringing in the changes with the game a tightly contested affair. Jane Watson came on in the place of Kelly Jury at goalkeeper in an attempt to stop the ball from moving into the South African goal circle. South African-born Karin Burger was moved from wing attack to goal defence to cover Taljaard. For South Africa, Elmeré van der Berg replaced Venter under the pole.  

New Zealand had edged 26-21 ahead by halftime.  

Khanyisa Chawane took over from Bongi Msomi at centre at the start of the third quarter, a period of play where South Africa traditionally lost games they should’ve won. In their game against Jamaica, the Proteas scored only three goals in the third quarter, and then outscored the Sunshine Girls 20-15 in the last 15 minutes of the match. This time around however, the Proteas produced an outstanding performance in the third period, winning it 13-12 to only be four goals adrift. 

The final 15 minutes of the thrilling match saw the Proteas throw everything at the Silver Ferns. Defenders Phumza Maweni and Karla Pretorius made several brilliant steels on the one end while Van der Berg and Taljaard kept the scoreboard ticking at the other. Nicola Smith then joined the fray. 

With four minutes left on the clock, South Africa needed three goals to pull off something special and the atmosphere at the CTICC reached fever pitch. The ball was fed to Taljaard and she made sure to sink what must probably be the most important goal of her career.

Proteas captain Msomi said she told the girls at halftime that New Zealand would make changes, but that they shouldn’t worry about that. 

“We believed that we could put up a great performance. It would have been great if it was a win, but we will take the draw. I’ve been with the girls for a long time. We’ve worked really hard to get in such positions and a few times we’ve let ourselves down. There’s so much pride to see them step up and play good netball. For me to be a part of that, it’s fantastic.” 

Proteas coach Norma Plummer said Thursday’s match against Uganda will be a different story. 

“Uganda has been playing really well at this World Cup. They have a totally different style of play, different from what we had today, and we have to work around that. Hopefully we can challenge them right to the end of the match,” she said. 

Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua praised the performance of both teams. 

“It always comes down to certain moments that happen. We also had ball in hand and that last 30 seconds, we probably could have drained the clock. When you look at the stats, our stats are actually not that bad, we had 55 per cent of the ball and our shooting percentage was 90 per cent compared to their 76 per cent. We have to take the draw on the chin.” 

SCORES:  

Q1: 10-11 

Q2: 21-26 (11-15) 

Q3: 34-38 (13-12) 

Q4: 48-48 (14-10) 

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Nichole Taljaard (South Africa)

JAMAICA 89 – 26 TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

Medal hopefuls Jamaica took on Caribbean rivals Trinidad and Tobago for the 11th time at a Netball World Cup in Cape Town on Wednesday, the Sunshine Girls making sure of a comfortable 89-26 victory to continue their course towards a semifinal spot – which was confirmed later in the evening when New Zealand drew with South Africa.

The World Cup head-to-head count between the nations stood at four-all with two draws since their first meeting back in 1963, but this time around it was all Jamaica. Rejuvenated after a day’s break on Tuesday, the Sunshine Girls had no trouble racing to a 14-goal lead by the first break.

Trinidad and Tobago coach Joel Young-Strong urged her side to play their usual safe, short, sharp game in the second quarter but they continued to be outpaced by the Jamaicans, who looked far slicker in all areas.

Adean Thomas was impressive at wing attack while Shanice Beckford was also working hard at goal attack – putting up just one less shot than goal shooter Romelda Aiken-George in the first half. That saw the Sunshine Girls extending their lead to 34 goals by halftime. Their defence also stood strong, as the Calypso Girls’ error count mounted, conceding 29 turnovers in the first half. By the end of the half, they had added just four goals to their total.

There were plenty of changes for Jamaica in the third quarter including Jhaniele Fowler coming on at goal shooter and Rebekah Robinson at goal attack. While the dynamic between the two was different to that between Aiken-George and Beckford, it was no less effective as the Jamaicans continued to put even more distance between themselves and the opposition, finishing the third quarter 50 goals up.

It was all change again in the fourth quarter as coach Connie Francis continued to rotate players ahead of the Jamaicans’ showdown against New Zealand on Thursday. But the Sunshine Girls maintained the intensity to wrap up the emphatic 89-26 win, with centre Nicole Dixon-Rochester named as Most Valuable Player on the day she played her 50th cap for Jamaica.

Speaking after the match, Jamaica assistant coach Keyan Murdock said: “It was about rotating the team… of course we have to be conscious of the fact that we have a tough game tomorrow [against New Zealand]. We wanted to ensure we had saved enough energy and that was part of the rotation.”

Captain Fowler added: “I felt that the rotation of the team was really good, ensuring that we were all rested for tomorrow as well as making sure that we are all getting enough game time as well that when we get on court to play any other team that we are fit and ready.”

As for the likely gameplan for their all-important clash against the Silver Ferns, Fowler said: “What we can give away is that we are going to stay disciplined and play our game and I reckon once we do that, we should be OK.”

Trinidad and Tobago goal attack Joelisa Cooper remained pragmatic, saying: “It is Jamaica [we were up against] and we have new players and young players who are very inexperienced and this is the biggest tournament they have played in. So we were being realistic.”

SCORES

Q1: 20-6

Q2: 44-10 (24-4)

Q3: 69-19 (25-9)

Q4: 89-26 (20-7)

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Nicole Dixon-Rochester (Jamaica)

SRI LANKA 60 – 56 BARBADOS

Sri Lanka were still in search of their first victory of the Netball World Cup 2023 when they took on Barbados in a Group E clash in Cape Town on Wednesday.

History was not on their side with Barbados having claimed both of their previous head-to-heads at the Netball World Cup – their last meeting a 67-33 victory for the Bajans in Sydney in 2015. But they looked determined to change all that as they came out firing in the first quarter.

Barbados, who have already secured their spot in the 13th/14th playoff, were not playing with the same intensity they showed in their defeat of Singapore a day earlier, but managed to stay level, heading into the first break on 15-15.

A run of five unanswered goals at the start of the second quarter meant the Sri Lankans started pulling ahead. That brought about the introduction of Sasha Corbin at wing attack and the move of her sister, Kadeen, who previously won Commonwealth Games gold with England, from goal shooter to goal attack for Barbados. But they remained four goals down at halftime.

Barbados finally seemed to find their rhythm after the break and looked to be a completely different team as they quickly made up the deficit and then surged ahead, winning the third quarter by 22 goals to 12. But the Sri Lankans had a storming final quarter to come back at them to claim a memorable 60-56 win. That is the first time in 20 years that the Sri Lankans have beaten anyone other than Singapore at the Netball World Cup.

Sri Lankan wing attack Gayanjali Amarawansa was overjoyed by her team’s performance and said: “This is a huge win for us, I am very happy for my team because this is our first win.”

SCORES

Q1: 15-15

Q2: 30-26 (15-11)

Q3: 43-48 (13-22)

Q4: 60-56 (17-8)

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Dulangi Wannithilake (Sri Lanka). – nwc2023.org.za