Match report from Netball World Cup 2019, South Africa v Jamaica
The first game of the World Cup between top-five teams promised to be a mighty showdown. South Africa had been that team full of potential who had only once beaten a traditional netball powerhouse in a major tournament, and Jamaica can be hard to read leading into big events but always rose to meet the big occasions. The match that ensued had massive swings in fortune but went down to the wire and will be talked about for years to come.
The Proteas took the ascendancy early 4-2, courtesy of Phumza Maweni taking a beautiful vertical intercept from a too-low feed. The misses from Maryka Holtzhausen shots when both Jamaican defenders were keeping Lenize Potgieter busy lead to Jamaican rebounds and equal scores. Quickly though Jamaica found themselves in a new and uncomfortable position, down 4-9 after 9 minutes in the quarter, largely due to mistakes by Shanice Beckford on the feed and the pressure by the tight South African defensive quartet forcing errors near sidelines.
Potgieter wasn’t in a mood to miss, and by the time she’d nailed eight goals, outstanding Jamaican shooter Jhaniele Fowler had only three. Vangelee Williams had been penalised for being dragged onto the body early on, then wasn’t rewarded as she stepped out of court trying to pick up the deflection of a magical blocked shot. The ball was coming down in South African hands clinically and with great regularity, and Jamaica failed to adjust in both defence and attack. In a surprising statistic, Erin Burger finished the match with an astounding 60 feeds yet only 23 goal assists, showing how quickly the Proteas got downcourt to access the circle, but also how willing they were to readjust shooting position. Her team already had three clean intercepts and her midcourt had no contacts and no turnovers, winning the first quarter 16-9.
The first play back was a glimpse of what is expected of the Sunshine Girls, Shamera Sterling taking a full-stretch intercept, and Khadijah Williams waiting until Beckford split the South African defenders, with a Fowler goal. Next uncanny highlight came of course from Karla Pretorius, using the half second while Beckford was spinning to come off front-marking Fowler and take the low short pass to the feeder.
The second term ran then ran goal for goal, with Jamaica largely using only their plan A, but South Africa showing so many tricks they’d learned as individual athletes playing regular professional matches. The features were their prelim moves, deception, and availability of two or three options, not to mention tough takes of the ball and invisible connections between the experienced attacking players. Then in the last four minutes the class of South Africa catapulted them ahead. The Jamaican’s usual strong-body defense wasn’t working at all, and they couldn’t cope with their opponents’ defensive tracking, spraying a litany of balls over the sidelines, gifting the Proteas a 32-21 lead into half time.
There wasn’t to be much answer in the shooting end for the Sunshine Goals, as both Aiken and Robinson were in poor form in the first two World Cup fixtures, so they moved the backline to a very tall, tough, tried and tested trio, Vangelee Williams to wing defence and veteran Stacien Facey to goal defence. They also put experienced Nicole Dixon into the centre instead of Adean Thomas who only committed 2 turnovers, but critically had just 4 goal assists, and had not been linking through the middle. Jamaica needed to convert or mitigate three turnovers per quarter and convert, but it was a tough task ahead. Using only three minutes Jamaica narrowed the margin from 11 to 7, awakening the crowd interest in the result. Suddenly an ugly stoush between Potgieter and Sterling after a goal was scored resulted in an immediate warning for both from umpire Phippard. From replays it was completely clear Sterling wanted the ball out of Potgieter’s hands immediately to restart the centre, and once Sterling nabbed the ball she shoved it into her opponent, but the Proteas centre retaliated with a face-to-face body check.
It was at this point that Coach Norma Plummer switched van der Merwe off and Khanyisa Chawane on at wing defence. The Jamaicans started to play with strength and fire, Beckford lifting up her intensity and delivering a handful characteristic front-cuts. The Proteas just had a few moments of panic, letting Sterling become more influential, with three gains via rebounds and intercepts. Players all over the court were racking up cautions, for deliberate repeated offsides and contacts, but the statuesque Facey and Williams were successfully blocking up a lot of space with very few penalties. The crowd wanted the Sunshine Girls to bring it back to a close contest, throwing all their vocal energy behind them. Just at the end of the quarter, South Africa steadied their ship, sticking more to their attacking and defensive structures, lucky to keep a 42-38 lead at the final break.
For the opening of the last quarter Izette Griesel replaced captain Msomi at wing attack, possibly to better combat the power and height of Vangelee Williams. It wasn’t a good start at all for South Africa, with chaotic movement in the forward line and wasteful turnovers. Jamaica was just too patient in attack, either taking advantage of a contact, or just waiting two seconds to pick the feeding option. After five minutes the Sunshine Girls levelled at 44-all and the roof nearly fell in. Having rested, Msomi came back on to the wing serendipitously when Griesel went to the blood bin, and South Africa took an intercept bringing them ahead by 3 once again.
A moment of light relief occurred when the ball split and went flat completely, requiring a change to the spare. There was renewed confidence in the Proteas, using Potgieter for more shots and rewarming their accuracy. When Nicole Dixon fumbled the ball and Erin Burger grabbed it, it felt like there could be a true momentum shift back to the Proteas, but it was not to be as Msomi couldn’t safely take a long ball to the pocket. Jamaica were desperate to go to the medal rounds and South Africa were also, to change history. Their opponents however kept their slender lead through a mixture of winding down the clock, and their captain creating one incisive cut to circle edge and then an intercept. South Africa didn’t even need to watch the last penalty shot go in the hoop – they were the worthy victors by three goals.
South Africa 55 defeated Jamaica 52
Jamaica – Jhaniele Fowler GS, Shanice Beckford GA, Khadijah Williams WA, Adean Thomas C, Jodiann Ward WD, Vangelee Williams GD, Shamera Stirling GK
Bench – Romelda Aiken, Rebekah Robinson, Stacien Facey, Nicole Dixon, Kadie-ann Dehaney
Coaches – Marvette Anderson and Sasher-Gaye Henry
South Africa – Lenize Potgieter GS, Maryka Holtzhausen GA, Bongi Msomi WA, Erin Burger C, Shadine van der Merwe WD, Karla Pretorius GD, Phumza Maweni GK
Bench – Izette Griesel, Zanele Vimbela, Renske Stolz, Sigrid Burger, Chawane Khanyisa
Coach – Norma Plummer
Lenize Potgieter 36/39 (92%)
Maryka Holtzhausen 19/29 (66%)
Jhaniele Fowler 38/39 (97%)
Shanice Beckford 14/19 (74%)
Karla Pretorius 4
Vangelee Williams 4
Shamera Sterling 4
Khadijah Williams 6
Lenize Potgieter 6
Shanice Beckford 5
Erin Burger 23
Khadijah Williams 21
Norma Plummer, South African coach
“The start of the game was just to play OUR game, to work the ball with speed. Keep the ball low and hard and getting the flow down court. After half time playing number two in the world they came back with a vengeance. I needed to get them to hang in there til they got their rhythm back, and by that last seven minutes we’d really picked it up again. And the changes – young KC going onto wing-D had tightened up on that, which slowed up their wing attack or centre, she might’ve got a few contacts. Plus her drives. I said to them before going out in the last quarter – no regrets, girls… no regrets!
“As far as Maryka went I thought she had a marvellous game. She really opened up the play, she did a great job today. I’ve told [the shooters] they’re princesses! They’ve gotta go to the post! I got stuck into them quite seriously, it’s time. I was quite disappointed in that third quarter, we were dishing off far too much. They came home strong, and that’s the main thing.
“[The Jamaicans] knew they could be out of the medal game if they didn’t put their foot down, plus they put Williams across to wing defence and brought on the other goal defence, that made them a pretty formidable back line, really big, hard to see around. They did a lot of damage at that stage, til we sorted it out. Because they had to double-team [Potgieter] that also gave us extra space to work the ball around.
“It was a teary one, yeah… no regrets girls, you’d be sorry if you lost this, you’ve come a long way.”
Erin Burger, South Africa
“Through experience and being in those pressure situations usually we would fade away, but in this game we decided not to back away, and that’s something our team has been working on, and I think it paid off. In the second half we went more aerial and they’re good with the aerial, so I think we let them a bit back in the game.”
Karla Pretorius, South Africa
“Previously, like last year at Commonwealth Games we were well in front and we let it slip away, so we were happy with this performance and get the win in the end. We knew we would meet Jamaica early and we knew what we needed to do – this sets the tone going forward.”