In tonight’s match, England started with their strongest line up, while South African coach Norma Plummer sprung a surprise in electing to start Izette Griesel at wing attack and captain Bongiwe Msomi at centre.
The umpires set the tone for the match early on, with Phumza Maweni and Karla Pretorius being heavily punished for contact against the English shooters. Jo Harten and Helen Housby were keeping on the move, running the baseline, cutting and driving, and popping out the front of the circle. While the South African defenders were able to cover their initial moves, eventually the contacts would come. In shooting 19 goals for the quarter at 95% accuracy, they put England firmly on the front foot.
At the opposite end of the court, the South Africans made a number of unforced errors – a missed shot, off-side and replayed ball all costing them badly early in the game. While goal shooter Lenize Potgieter was playing more of a mobile game than we’ve seen from her previously this tournament, Eboni Usoro-Brown was dropping back to double team her in the circle.
This cleverly forced goal attack Maryka Holzhausen to take on the shooting burden. Holzhausen’s accuracy dips in and out, and in the first half of the match she was only able to make 44% of her shots. With Geva Mentor able to rebound the crumbs, England played a free flowing game down court, with the South African through court defence finding it difficult to keep up with their opponents.
The South African captain and centre Bongiwe Msomi went down in a heavy fall midway through the first quarter, and left the court shortly afterwards to be replaced by Erin Burger. She received treatment to her ankle on the sidelines but didn’t return to the match.
Chelsea Pitman and Serena Guthrie were a strong presence around the circle edge providing a good supply of ball to the English shooters. Guthrie was launching herself at everything, spending a considerable amount of time on the boards. Her coach Tracey Neville wasn’t concerned, saying “I think she is so slight that people just whack her off. I think just a breeze comes through and when she hits the floor it doesn’t hurt, it’s like a stick hitting the floor. It is quite normal for her.”
At the opposite end of the court, the bulk of circle feeding was falling to Izette Griesel, before she was replaced by recent debutant Khanyisa Chawane. While the youngster is more commonly seen at wing defence or centre, she drove strongly onto the circle, providing 12 goal assists in her thirty minute cameo.
The turnovers were coming for South Africa, but they were struggling to capitalise on them, with their long court conversion a concern for coach Norma Plummer. The Proteas scored off just 13% of their opportunities, and it’s a statistic that will urgently need to be addressed if they want to go deeper into the tournament.
Geva Mentor was blanketing Potgeiter, who was kept to just one goal for the third term. Holzhausen, who’d struggled for accuracy in the second term (0/4) filled the breach, until she was joined by Siggy Burger, who shot 11/12 in the final term.
With an 11 goal lead at three quarter time, England could afford to rotate and rest their players in the fourth quarter, ahead of a big semi-final against New Zealand on Saturday. While the Proteas lack other team’s depth, they were playing for pride in the final term, and fought the match to the end. They took the last quarter from England, who until this point haven’t lost a quarter throughout the tournament.
England were composed and clinical throughout the match, although could potentially be concerned by centre Serena Guthrie’s game high error count in this match. There’s been some concern over whether Guthrie made the right choice in leaving the Suncorp Super Netball league ahead of the World Cup, and returning to the English Superleague. While she hasn’t been fully tested yet in this tournament, Guthrie looks to be playing with her usual flair. However, the coming match up against Super Fern Laura Langman should be one of the highlights of the tournament.
England defeated South Africa 58 – 47 (19-11, 12-9, 12-10, 15-17)
England: GS Jo Harten, GA Helen Housby, WA Chelsea Pitman, C Serena Guthrie, WD Jade Clarke, GD Eboni Usoro-Brown, GK Geva Mentor
Bench: Rachel Dunn, Natalie Haythornthwaite, Fran Williams, Nat Panagarry
Coach: Tracey Neville
South Africa: GS Lenize Potgeiter, GA Maryka Holzhausen, WA Izette Griesel, C Bongiwe Msomi, WD Shadine van der Merwe, GD Karla Pretorius, GK Phumza Maweni
Bench: Erin Burger, Sigrid Burger, Khanyisa Chawane, Renske Stoltz, Zanele Vimbela
Coach: Norma Plummer
Umpires: Michelle Phippard (Australia) and Gareth Fowler (New Zealand)
Joanne Harten 30/33 (91%), Helen Housby 24/26 (92%), Rachel Dunn 4/5 (80%)
Lenize Potgeiter 17/21 (81%), Maryka Holzhausen 19/27 (70%), Siggy Burger 11/12 (92%)
WHAT THEY SAID AFTER THE GAME:
Tracey Neville (coach, England)
On today’s match
“We are through to the semi-finals so it was about going out and having a crack at it. There is nothing lost so it was about working on the things we wanted to accomplish quarter by quarter which we didn’t nail last night and didn’t nail in the Jamaica game. So, every day is a building day so we have to utilise these match opportunities to building on the strength we have in our team. I think we did that tonight. We were very clinical in the first quarter and to do that against a world class team like South Africa. We have some great battles against them, and it was never over until the last whistle and they kept pushing us until the end.”
Khanyisa Chawane (South Africa)
“It’s very tough, especially ‘cause I’m not usually a wing attack. I usually play centre and wing defence, and have to pull that position was really,… not so much pressure, but I had to go on and do what I can. Going on you always have to give your best. [Norma Plummer] said I must get on, try to open up the play, because it looked like we were bogged down in front. Just to create more space for the drives to come in. I played with my speed, releasing the ball much faster, that’s what helped us. In the first quarter we were just a bit hesitant. The drives were there, but we just didn’t give the ball. The England defence was trying to change us into their play, we kind of fell into that. But we worked it out and played out of it.”
Normal Plummer, South Africa head coach
Your thoughts on the game: “You have to put into perspective, we did go out far too nervous. We didn’t get it to a blowout of 20 goals, so it was just a matter of, we had to adjust, I didn’t know what we were getting pulled for half the time, in the end, we needed to adjust that quicker. Losing Bongi [Msomi, captain] didn’t help, I think she’ll be right for the weekend, but you can’t run a player like that when we have the finals now to come. That was really a dead rubber in a way, but you know, everybody wants to win a game, and England went out and planted that. Home town, all the cheers, make ‘em feel good!”
“Because we wanted to be able to start different sevens, because if they don’t, some of them at that stage never get an opportunity, but you want to see what they can do. As I said, technically, it was a dead rubber, and Izette [Griesel] has played very well. I think the problem was we just didn’t let the ball go. It was nerves. 25 years that they haven’t been in this sort of a position, so it showed. They haven’t been anywhere near a final. It’s alright going to Quad Series, you only play once, and rests in between, maybe seven days, it’s not really the same as being in this sort of situation. We weren’t reoffering. We’d pass the ball and then have a look at the scenery, instead of going again, so there’s a fair bit to learn from that.”
“We weren’t too sure what to expect, they put out a really good game against Jamaica earlier in the week.”
On getting Lenize Potgeiter benched: “I really rate Lenize as a player, I think she’s outstanding. She has some really tricky angles. I think we were able to shut her down a little bit and I think I had the help of Eboni coming back and doubling up on her as well, and making sure we could pick off whatever we could.”