She Cranes too good for powerful Proteas

UGANDA caused an upset as it dethroned host nation South Africa to become the top African team with a close two-goal win after a third quarter flurry. Last time these two sides met was two days ago where South Africa took home the chocolates and got the win by two goals, but today was a different story as Uganda came out 49-47 victors.

Uganda asserted its dominance early getting out to a 4-0 start with impeccable defence from the circle defenders. South Africa quickly returned with three goals of its own, closing the gap to one.

The Proteas were very confident on their feeds with great timing and height into youngster Elmeré van der Berg (36 goals, four rebounds). There went on to be some really scrappy plays from both sides with some unforced errors, very uncharacteristic from both nations.

The balance between the moving circle and the holding shooter for the Proteas looked seamless with Nichole Taljaard (11) working the ball slowly into the shooting circle with van der Berg holding strong in the backspace or getting on the move along the baseline or a pop out the top of the circle.

Once the both sides got a feel for the game, it went goal for goal a lot of the first term with Uganda taking a one-goal lead into the first break.

It was very much the same coming into the second quarter with a lot of uncharacteristic errors from two of these top nations. Once one side looked like they were gaining momentum and was about to pull away, the other would come charging right back.

Slick ball work from South Africa kept it in the contest, but Uganda’s tight one on one defence was forcing the Proteas up court, giving them space to get a slight hand to the ball.

A last second intercept from Jeante Strydom (two intercepts) gave the Proteas the confidence they needed to send the ball down the other end as they levelled the scores 23 all at half time, making this an African battle for the ages.

The shift of Irene Eyaru (10) into the shooting circle for the She Cranes had great vision for player of the match Mary Cholhok (29 goals, four rebounds) while bringing in some speed into the circle entry. Cholhok was required to do a lot of work outside of the circle, but she was able to position herself back under the post and slot the goals in comfortably.

The Ugandan defenders started to get so close to a lot of ball in the third term but the Proteas were able to pick up the loose ball and keep possession. The She Cranes quickly got out to another three-goal lead with everyone putting their body on the line and living up to the physicality.

Falidah Kadondi (six deflections, four gains, one intercept) performed to the best of her ability and used her wing span to her advantage, getting deflections using the outside arm, with her fellow teammates getting the pick ups. Uganda started to smother in defence and close off all the channels for the Proteas in their attack end, forcing them to look long rather than their favoured short and sharp passes.

Uganda slowly extended its lead to two goals going into the last break, requiring a big quarter from South Africa. The penalty count for South Africa really let them down with 82 compared to Uganda’s 51.

The Proteas came alive in the fourth term with a strong start as they drew scores level again. But Uganda just kept refusing South Africa opportunities to score with its midcourt defensive pressure, confusing space while causing passes to go awry.

A common theme of this game was Uganda pulling away, but South Africa then coming back into it. South Africa could only get out by one-goal whereas Uganda had the biggest lead of five.

The She Cranes played a possession game and kept the clock winding down as they finished fifth in the Netball World Cup and were crowned the new Queens of Africa.

Malawi (64) defeated Tonga (54)

Malawi came away victorious with a 10-goal win over the Tala after a dominant fourth quarter performance. It was a highly contested game with plenty of penalties, just going to show how often players were desperate in challenging for the ball. Tonga ended up placing 8th in the Netball World Cup where Malawi finished 7th.

Joyce Mvula (39) and Mwai Kumwenda (25) paired up for Malawi to be a shooting circle others feared as both had the ability to be a tall target under the post, but able to get on the move and chance the long shot. It was also the high volume of ball handling from Takondwa Lwazi (32 feeds, 21 goal assists) with her experience really shining through when the moments mattered.

It was a great competition between Lwazi and Hulita Veve with one being attacking heavy and Veve being a very defensive centre. But Veve had a really good balance this game with 27 feeds, 12 goal assists and two intercepts while having to work around four different shooters. Each shooter was able to get a high volume of attempts, but the ones that were not falling were easy pickings for Loreen Ngwira with the five rebounds to her name.

Congratulations were in order post-match as Tongan Marie Hansen got engaged surrounded by her family with nothing but smiles on their faces. It is also goodbye to the Queen herself Lwazi who announced her retirement post-match. Malawi is really going to miss the powerhouse in the midcourt and her leadership on and off court.

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