The Kingdom Stars completely dominated the Mpumalanga Sunbirds in their Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League (NPL) match at the Heartfelt Arena on Saturday, thrashing them by 59 points to 29, after leading 27-14 at halftime.
The Stars came out fast and furious, and the Sunbirds struggled to keep up with the pace.
It was a welcome result for Stars coach Marchelle Maroun, after two losses last weekend.
“I’m a lot happier than I was a week ago,” she said.
“I did a lot of work with the shooters during the week and that paid off. But we are still a work in progress and there’s a lot of work to do.
“What pleases me is that we have been able to try a number of combinations that are working well. I have a lot of versatile players who have natural flair.”
She praised the young Sunbirds shooter, 19-year-old Leani du Plessis, saying her accuracy had been impressive.
“We had to make sure the ball didn’t get into their circle, because if she got the ball, she scored,” said Maroun.
Player of the match Precious Mthembu of the Stars, who has played for the Proteas for a number of years, said the Stars knew they had to come back strongly after two defeats.
“We had to do what the coach wanted and follow the game plan,” she said.
Jenne-Lee Delport, coach of the Sunbirds, said she was disappointed with the result of the match.
“We are not 30 goals weaker than they are,” she said.
“Leani had a good day today, but the two players I used in goal attack were both missing too many goals. Every centre pass we lost was because the shooters missed their shot at goal.
“But what did please me was that the girls are no longer passing the ball backwards, as they were doing last week. They are also beginning to connect with one another, and once they do that, we will have a stronger team.”
It was one-way traffic in the match between the defending champions, the Free State Crinums, and the Limpopo Baobabs. Led by Proteas captain Maryke Holtzhausen, the Crinums shot out of the starting blocks and were 16-seven ahead after the first quarter. They showed no mercy and the Baobabs were unable to score a single goal in the second quarter, which ended with the Crinums leading 34-7. Superb defence by Alicia Puren and Tanja Mostert meant that the ball was turned before the Baobabs were able to take a shot at goal.
Baobabs coach Cecilia Molokwane made some changes at halftime and the Baobabs made something of a comeback, scoring nine goals to the Crinums’ 12. But in the final quarter, the champions ran riot, adding 23 goals to five for the Limpopo side.
“It was lovely to play with a smile on our faces again,” said a beaming Puren, who was named player of the match.
“We had a bad start to the tournament, losing our first two matches, but we are getting our rhythm back and the combinations are beginning to take shape.”
Crinums’ coach Burta de Kock said both teams benefited, even from one-sided matches.
“The main focus of this tournament is developing young players and bringing them up to standard. We are taking things game by game, and I am very happy to see young players stepping up.”
Cecilia Molokwane, the Baobabs’ coach, agreed that it was important for teams like hers to play against teams like the start-studded Crinums.
“If we don’t play them, how do we ever improve,” she asked.
In the final game of the evening, the Golden Fireballs bounced back from their defeat at the hands of the Crinums on Friday to beat the Diamonds 59-31. The Diamonds struggled initially, and it was 10 minutes before they scored their first goal. The Fireballs led 17-4 after the first quarter and were 28-12 ahead at halftime.
Fireballs coach Elsje Jordaan said she was much happier than the day before.
“We had a hard session this morning and looked each other in the eye. I think our combinations are beginning to jell and we are beginning to trust one another,” she said.
“I will sleep much better tonight.”
The Diamonds coach, Elsje van der Merwe, said she was disappointed with the outcome of the match, because her team had played better against the Jaguars earlier in the tournament.
“We struggled to get going, because they play a very physical style of netball, but I was pleased that I had an opportunity to blood some of my younger players. At halftime, we agreed that we would aim to score 30 goals, and we went one better,” she said.
The Northern Cape coach said she would use her strongest line-up against the Sunbirds on Sunday morning.
“We really want to beat them, because we are aiming to finish in the top six in the tournament.”