So close as Proteas go down in thriller - TeamSA
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So close as Proteas lose thriller

Shadine van der Merwe

South Africa’s Proteas ended their Vitality Nations Cup netball campaign with the narrowest of 65-63 defeats to England in their playoff for third and fourth place.

The two teams are fast becoming rivals and served up another classic in London on Sunday. In the final, world champions New Zealand beat Jamaica 67-56.

Last July the Proteas and the Roses faced off in the bronze medal match in Liverpool at the World Cup and a sixth meeting in six months brought a fifth win for England, and they had to do it the hard way as South Africa roared back from a seven-goal half-time deficit to lead with just a couple of minutes remaining on that occasion.

On Sunday, England’s fast start was matched by a more sluggish effort from South Africa, as four games in eight days began to take its toll. The hosts got the better of the early exchanges, opening up a lead. Youthful enthusiasm also brought the occasional error from England and South Africa crept back into things, ending the opening quarter just a couple of goals behind in an intriguing first 15 minutes.

A dominant second quarter saw the Roses take control, as England cut out the mistakes and forced the crucial turnovers that saw them into a 36-29 lead at the break.

A goal-for-goal start to the second half saw the deficit remain at seven until England gave the ball away cheaply following their own centre pass.

Lenize Potgieter ensured the Proteas capitalised to reduce the difference to five. And five became four as South Africa pounced on a mistake and then with her first touch Zanele Vimbela won the ball back to continue the shift in momentum as South Africa drew to within one.

On at goalkeeper Vimbela was at it again to give Potgieter the chance to level which she took but with the opportunity to lead for the first time in the contest, South Africa saw England wrestle back control they held the slenderest of leads (49-48) ahead of the final quarter.

With the game on the line, England opened up a three-goal lead. But errors continued to plague them and Potgieter was in unforgiving mood to level up the scores with seven minutes remaining and then reel off back-to-back goals to give the Proteas a two-goal advantage.

A frantic final quarter still had another twist as an unforced error in the South African shooting circle gave England the ball back, and they pounced on the error and sored the goal that allowed them to hold onf or an exciting 65-53 win.