South Africa’s netballers were flattened by a Jamaican juggernaut that overpowered them in the last quarter to win a pulsating Pool A match 57-46 at the Commonwealth Games, writes GARY LEMKE in Gold Coast, Australia.
In the end it was the tallest player on the field, Jhaniele Fowler-Reid, who buried South African hopes of what would have been an upset. There was no shortage of quality from both teams, but when the pressure was on late in the game, Jamaica were the ones who kept their composure better.
Fowler-Reid, their 1.98m goal shooter, converted 29 of her 31 attempts, with goalkeeper Phumza Maweni increasingly frustrated in her attempts to cut the ball flow to her opponent.
A day earlier Jamaica had opened their Games account with an 88-30 trouncing of Fiji and they arrived at the Convention Centre arena as clear favourites, not only because they are ranked No4 in the world, one place ahead of South Africa, but because their head-to-heads over the years also pointed in favour of the Caribbean queens.
This was the 14th game between these two teams over the years with Jamaica holding an 11-2 advantage, and the last time South Africa beat their opponents was back in 2012. The average score over the years was 55-41 in favour of Jamaica.
Bongiwe Msomi, the South African captain, feels there is much progress. She might only measure 1.67m but around the court, she has a never-say-die attitude from wing attack.
‘We have come a long way and we really try work and win for each other,’ she said. ‘There were a couple of stages during the match when we weren’t completely in sync, but I’m proud of the fight we showed. This was our first match and we’ve got a few young players.
‘We will work on cutting down the errors and look forward to the rest of the tournament. A couple of years ago we lost by 30-odd goals to Australia, the last time we played them we pushed them all the way, so we are growing and we don’t have to stand back for any team.’
There were large passages of play when South Africa stood toe-to-toe with the Jamaicans in a game that ebbed and flowed. At half-time the enthusiastic crowd was the subject of a ‘rollercoaster ride cam’ and that echoed the feel of the match. The first quarter had seen South Africa draw out to a 15-10 lead and although Jamaica clawed their way back, at half-time it was 22-22. Up to then the goal shooter they call ‘Sigi/Ziggy’, Sigrid Burger had been sprinkling her stardust in the Jamaican circle, nailing 15 out of 15 attempts.
However, she was substituted at that point and although South Africa enjoyed a 38-37 lead going into the final 15-minute quarter, one was left wondering whether or not her clinical finishing might have been crucial. In the final quarter which Jamaica won 20-8, South Africa’s resistance crumbled. Mistakes crept in, goal attempts were squandered and they started to malfunction as the pressure built.
The final scoreboard suggests it was simply a result that mirrors the history between these two teams. It’s also one which suggests that South Africa’s best-placed finish at these Games will be fifth, which again matches their world ranking. However, at one stage they were 35-29 ahead and looking good. From there they lost their way somewhat, as Jamaica scored 28 goals to South Africa’s 11.
Photo: Image of Precious Mthembu supplied by Wessel Oosthuizen