The Samsung Diamonds have started 2018 with a win, pushed for a full 60 minutes by South Africa Spar Proteas.
Coach Lisa Alexander was pleased with her side’s 4-goal victory, stating that the Proteas are a strong side that should not be underestimated.
“People need to understand that South Africa is no longer a team that you can beat by 20 goals,” Alexander said. “That’s very clear; they have improved enormously.
“They are stronger and fitter, they have a great combination that’s worked together for quite a while now and they are doing quite a good job as a team. It’s tough for us to come up against them, but at the end of the day we did what was needed, when needed. I was pleased,” she said.”
The shooting combination of Caitlin Thwaites and Gretel Tippett showed confidence under the post early on, neither missing a goal in the first quarter. The Australians led by three goals at the end of the opening term.
“The shooting was fantastic throughout the game,” recounted Alexander. “I was really pleased. The shooters played their role and put the ball through the ring.
“Particularly Susan Pettitt who came on in the second half, she really controlled that end very well. She played very smart,” the coach said.
South Africa’s hunger for the ball paid off in the second quarter, levelling the game with less than two minutes until halftime, and ending the term with a one-goal advantage. The Proteas looked sharp in attack and challenged the Diamonds across the court.
“It was an extremely tough game,” said midcourter Liz Watston. “We knew it was going to be like that, the physicality was there, which we had spoken about during our preparations.
“It was a grind, but we found a way and that’s something we pride ourselves on. We’ll take a lot of things from that game,” Watson said.
Kate Moloney was introduced at centre and Susan Pettitt at goal attack for the third term, bringing some variation into the attacking line up. Caitlin Bassett was injected into the game in the closing minutes of the third term, the Diamonds up 39-38 at the last break.
Emily Mannix moved into goal keeper and Kim Ravaillion returned to centre for the final quarter, with seamless changes.
“The changes that were made were effective across the court, and gave us fresh legs in the second half,” said Alexander. “Kate did a great job in the centre in that third quarter. We got Emily on and she got on there and did the job, there was no worry about this being just her second test, she just went out there and did the job for her team,” she said.
After over 50 minutes of a sea-sawing scoreline, Australia put their foot down in the last five minutes of the game, displaying determination and great belief.
“Everyone had this urge and sense that it’s a close game and can go either way right now,” explained Watson. “It was that strong belief in defence and attack. Defenders were getting lots of turnover ball and as attackers we had to nail it. I think it was the belief in the end amongst everybody that got us over the line,” she said.
The Samsung Diamonds will face the England Roses on Monday night in London.
SAMSUNG DIAMONDS (54) defeated SOUTH AFRICA SPAR PROTEAS (50)
Samsung Diamonds shooting statistics
Caitlin Thwaites 22/23 (96%)
Gretel Tippett 8/9 (89%)
Caitlin Bassett 13/14 (93%)
Susan Pettitt 11/11 (100%)
South Africa Spar Proteas shooting statistics
Lenize Potgieter 34/38 (89%)
Maryka Holtzhausen 16/18 (89%)
Australia starting seven – GS: Caitlin Thwaites, GA: Gretel Tippett, WA: Liz Watson, C: Kim Ravaillion, WD: Gabi Simpson, GD: April Brandley, GK: Courtney Bruce
South Africa starting seven – GS: Lenize Potgieter, GA: Maryka Holtzhausen, WA: Bongiwe Msomi, C: Erin Burger, WD: Precious Mthembu, GD: Karla Pretorius (nee Mostert), GK: Phumza Maweni
Match MVP: Bongiwe Msomi (South Africa)