In a match that at times sounded like an IPL cricket match, South Africa pulled off a 49-49 draw with Fiji in the second game of the Spar Challenge at the Rembrandt Hall at University of Pretoria on Thursday, 28 May.
Fiji took the lead early on, and dominated the first two quarters. At
halftime, they were 28-24 ahead, and it was not until the closing minutes of
the third quarter that South Africa were able to close the gap.
The capacity crowd cheered every goal as the Proteas first drew level and
then passed the Pacific Islanders. At the end of the third quarter, the
Proteas led 37-35.They extended their lead early in the final quarter, and
were eventually six goals ahead, but then Fiji came back strongly and
reclaimed the lead.
With less than two minutes to go, the Proteas once again clawed their way
back from three goals down, and as the seconds ticked by they got within one
goal of the visitors. When Chrisna Bootha aimed for goal in the dying
seconds of the match, there was silence in the hall and then the crowd
erupted as the ball dropped safely through the net to bring South Africa
level on 49-all, as the final whistle blew.
The draw means that South Africa, who won their first match against Botswana
on Wednesday, will play in the final on Saturday afternoon (30 May).
Proteas coach Carin Strauss was pleased with the result, but said she felt
that nerves had cost South Africa dearly in the early stages of the match.
Chrisna was very nervous at the beginning and missed some easy shots at
goal, she said. People always talk about the last goals in a match, but
those early misses were important.
She praised the goal defence, Amanda Mynhardt, and goalkeeper Adele Niemand,
who both made some telling intercepts at crucial stages in the match, but
said that the work done by wing defence Zanele Mdodana had been vital in
clearing the ball.
Fiji coach Melissa Walker - in charge of her first international match as
coach - said she was satisfied with the draw. If we had won, it wouldnt
have been because we were playing our best netball, she said. I know we
can do better and we will be taking Botswana very seriously tomorrow.
The visitors Maria Bereso had an impressive game at goal attack and was
rightfully chosen player of the match.
The Proteas were well supported by Sports Minister Makhenkesi Stofile,
Deputy Sports Minister Gert Oosthuizen, and Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana
Dlamini-Zuma, as well as the South African mens hockey team, who cheered
their fellow Proteas throughout the match.
Entrance to the event is free of charge.