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Proteas seal Singapore spot

South Africa and Botswana are the two countries that will join Malawi as the three African representatives at the World Netball Championships in Singapore in 2011.

The SPAR┬á South African team, preparing for next month’s Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India, were unbeaten in the qualifying tournament which was played in Mamelodi over the past four days, while Botswana lost only to South Africa.

The Proteas played two matches on the final day on Thursday, beating Uganda 54-36 in the morning, and then beating Namibia 57-35 in their afternoon match.  Although the Uganda match counted for ranking points, it was not part of the African Qualifiers.

In the final match, South Africa got off to a great start, while Namibia had some difficulty with decision-making, which slowed the game down. The South African goalshooter and goal attack, Chrisna Bootha and Christine Markgraaff, were both outstanding in the circle, while Erin Burger, who was named player of the tournament, also had an excellent match. Leigh-Ann Zackey was as good as always on defense, guiding her teammates in their decisions on the back line, and was awarded best defense player of the tournament.

Although South Africa dominated in the first half, Namibia came back strongly in the third quarter, outscoring the Proteas by 14 goals to eight, but South Africa regrouped and roared back in the final quarter, scoring 18 goals to Namibia’s five.

The Proteas played well as a unit, and were able to make a number of intercepts.  They were also very focused, in contrast to the morning match, when they were thrown off stride by the physicality of the Ugandan team.

Captain Liezel Wium thought the outcome of the Namibia match showed the character of the team. ÔÇ£We started off fine, but then we struggled a bit in the third quarter, which is usually our best. But we finished off strongly, and I think that coming back like that and stepping up when we needed to showed a lot of character.ÔÇØ

Coach Carin Strauss was very happy with the team’s performance in the tournament as a whole. ÔÇ£Playing two matches in a day and playing the way we did shows that we are very well-conditioned,ÔÇØ she said. ÔÇ£We wanted to win all our matches and step up our intensity, and we did that.

ÔÇ£This has been brilliant preparation for the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi next month,ÔÇØ she said.

Thursday’s results
Botswana bt Lesotho 68-17
Zimbabwe bt Tanzania 40-27
South Africa bt Namibia 57-35