Proteas captain Maryka Holtzhausen came back to top class netball with a bang on Saturday night as she led the Free State Crinums to victory over the Kingdom Stars in their Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League match at the UCT Indoor Sports Centre. The final score was 52-32.
Holtzhausen was out of action for eight months after a serious knee injury she sustained during the national championships in Durban last year.
The Crinums – the defending champions – started fairly slowly and were 19-13 ahead at halftime. Holtzhausen came on at goal attack in the third quarter and injected new vigour to the team. They scored an impressive 18 goals in the quarter and 15 in the final quarter.
The Stars also had a good game, but the Crinums, who had not won a match until Saturday, were just too good for them.
“I can’t fault my players. They gave their all and I think our defence was magnificent,” said Stars coach Madri Maritz.
“They had nothing to lose, and I was pleased to see goal shooter Elsunet du Plessis back to top form after a couple of poor games.
Precious Mthembu and Jessica Khomo worked together brilliantly as goal defence and goalkeeper and I am very proud of them all.”
Holtzhausen said she was happy that her return was over.
“The pressure is off now and I can just enjoy playing as part of the team again,” she said. “I am also very relieved that the Crinums are back on track, after losing our first three games. We still have work to do – we need more consistency. But we have some young players who have stepped up and I think our future looks good.”
She said she felt that she was stronger than before her injury, “I had an excellent rehab team and I am really feeling good. I am a bit rusty, but having got this game under my belt, I am hoping to play a full match tomorrow,” she said.
The North West Flames showed once again that they are one of the teams to be wary of when they hammered the Mpumalanga Sunbirds 61-17. The Sunbirds started quite well and for the first 10 minutes kept pace with the Flames. But in the last five minutes of the quarter, the Flames surged ahead, scoring 10 goals to two for the Sunbirds. In the second quarter, they shut down the Sunbirds to the extent that the Mpumalanga team managed to score only one goal.
“We had a better weekend than last weekend, when we lost to the Fireballs,” said Flames coach Dorette Badenhorst.
“I am pleased with the way things are going. Goal shooter Kifiloe Tsotetsi has got her confidence back, and (goal attack) Renske Stoltz has recovered from the stomach bug that affected her last week. Of course, everyone is playing to shut her down, so she is very tired after two full games this weekend.”
The Sunbirds coach Marlie Nel looked despondent after the match. The Sunbirds have yet to win a game.
“They were quite upbeat after a good performance against the Aloes last week, but after this defeat, it will be be back to the drawing board,” she said.
The Jaguars, who lost narrowly to the Flames on Friday night, bounced back from their disappointment to beat the Limpopo Baobabs comfortably by 53 goals to 27. The outcome of the match was never in doubt, with the Baobabs struggling to match the skill of the Jaguars.
“We can use a match like this to try different game plans,” said Jaguars assistant coach Jenne-lee Delport.
“We were also able to play our youngsters, and it was quite shocking that our best quarter was the third, when we had three untried players on court.
“I think this will be a wake-up call for some of the senior players.
If you are not hungry enough, there is always someone who is. It’s important for all our players to keep pushing the boundaries,” she said.
Dumisani Chauke, coach of the Baobabs, said she was disappointed that her players kept moving away from the game plan.
“When they were disciplined and stuck to the game plan, they were fine, but I think they were a bit over-awed by some of the big names in the Jaguars’ team.
“But I am not too disappointed. They are a young team, and this is how we learn,” said Chauke.
The Southern Stings retained their unbeaten record with an emphatic 66-30 win over their neighbours, the Eastern Cape Aloes. They are now the only unbeaten team.
The Stings were clinical throughout and the circle defence made life very difficult for the Aloes’ shooters. Phumza Maweni, at goal defence instead of her usual goalkeeper position, thrived on the added responsibility and had an outstanding match.
The Stings were 32-16 ahead at half time and extended their lead every quarter.
“I was able to play my whole bench – in fact, I have now played my whole squad,” said Stings coach Annelie Lucas.
“I don’t like the tag of being the only unbeaten team in the tournament – we were on top throughout last year and came short in the semis. But we have learnt a lot since then and will be better prepared.”
“We knew it would be tough and very physical,” said Aloes coach Des Neville.
“They are a team of very fit athletes and they are a physical team – if you come up against them, you’re likely to end on the floor.
“I felt better about my centre court this week, and I am also happy with my younger players.”