The SPAR Baby Proteas’ dream of reaching the semi-finals of the Netball World Youth Cup came to nought as they were nailed by New Zealand in Botswana on Thursday.
Defending champions, the Silver Ferns, dominated the national under-21 side, winning 69-32.
The Proteas were pressured from the start and it was only in the fifth minute that the South Africans were able to score their first goal.
By that stage, the Kiwis had scored four and they had a 20-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Baby Proteas looked more settled in the second quarter, which turned out to be their best. They scored 11 goals to 16 and managed to turn the ball over several times.
The Silver Ferns were like lightning on court, able to throw the ball into empty spaces, secure in the knowledge that someone would collect the pass, while the South Africans often appeared to be searching desperately for someone to pass to.
By half-time, the Silver Ferns were ahead 36-20 and they continued their dominance for the rest of the match.
As hard as the Baby Proteas fought and tried to keep their heads up, they made a number of mistakes, including resorting to long, looping passes that the Kiwis were able to intercept with ease. They scored just six goals in each of the last two quarters, while New Zealand replied with 16 and 18 respectively.
The Baby Proteas now play Uganda on Friday afternoon in the fifth place play-off.
Coach Dorette Badenhorst said it had been another tough match after the match against Australia on Wednesday.
‘We didn’t play well and we made far too many silly mistakes,’ she said. ‘And it’s not going to get any easier, now that we are in the play-offs for fifth to eighth place.
‘We’re going to come up against teams like Uganda and Fiji, and either England or Jamaica. We will have to go back to basics and play the kind of netball we’re capable of playing. I still believe we can retain our fifth place, but it’s going to require a lot of hard work,’ said Badenhorst.
Added manager Dumisani Chauke, herself an ex-national player: ‘We went in knowing that it was going to be a tough encounter. They came out ready, guns blazing and ready to go and we had a slow start. We struggled to keep possession and scoring from our own centre passes and that made life very tough for us because we ended up chasing from start to end.
‘But we can definitely beat Uganda. We just need to stick to our game plan.’
Main picture of SA’s Danelle Lochner and Silver Ferns’ Kelly Jury contesting possession and that of Khanyisa Chawane getting airborne, courtesy of Reg Caldecott