Uganda stun South Africa to secure fifth

An inspired Ugandan side stunned hosts South Africa, beating them by two goals to secure fifth spot at the Netball World Cup 2023 in Cape Town on Sunday. While... Read more
Uganda stun South Africa to secure fifth

An inspired Ugandan side stunned hosts South Africa, beating them by two goals to secure fifth spot at the Netball World Cup 2023 in Cape Town on Sunday.

While the Proteas secured a two-goal victory over the She Cranes in their final group game just three days earlier, the rising Ugandans got the better of them in the same fifth-place playoff almost a year ago to the day at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Coming into the match, Uganda were already guaranteed their highest ever finish at a Netball World Cup – their previous best being seventh place in 2019 – and they took another massive step up in 2023, dethroning the South Africans as the top side in Africa to secure fifth spot with a 49-47 victory on Sunday.

The Ugandans came out showing their intent, turning over the first centre pass and racing to a four-goal lead before the South Africans could register on the scoreboard. Multiple unforced errors from the jittery Proteas saw them losing unnecessary possession and they spent much of the first period playing catchup. By the first break, the hosts had managed to close that gap to just one goal.

South African coach Norma Plummer switched Bongi Msomi to wing attack and the taller Izette Griesel to centre at the start of the second quarter as the South Africans slowly started swinging the momentum in their favour. But while the defenders earned plenty of turnovers – Jeanté Strydom particularly impressive in stealing two centre passes – the Proteas’ attack struggled to convert those into goals. Uganda continued to throw everything at the home side, with goal attack Shadiah Nassanga eventually receiving a warning for repeated obstruction just before haltftime, which the teams reached all tied up at 23-23.

The She Cranes came out looking the hungrier of the two sides in the third quarter which proved to be the decisive one. They took their time in their own attack, with Mary Cholhok and Irene Eyaru doing the business in the circle, and made the Proteas work hard for their goals.

The Ugandan defence did an excellent job of putting pressure on the usually reliable Nichole Taljaard, the star of South Africa’s draw with New Zealand earlier in the week. The goal attack was not at her best, throwing away plenty of ball and was pressured into taking fewer shots than normal.

Uganda headed into the final break with their noses in front but the Proteas managed to level matters at 40-40. The home team couldn’t push on from there, however. Yet another unforced error from the South Africans allowed Uganda to edge ahead and this time they didn’t look back, surging five goals in front at one stage. The She Cranes still held a two-goal lead heading into the final two minutes, and they slowed things right down, looking to hold on to possession to wind down the clock, and so securing a memorable 49-47 victory.

A thrilled Ugandan coach Fred Mugerwa said afterwards: “The match went the way we wanted it to go. When we went into that match my last words to the players were that we shouldn’t make the mistakes we made in the first match we played against South Africa because we gave them a lot of respect and because of that they went ahead by many goals.

“When we tried to catch up those goals, which we did, by the fourth quarter we were very tired and could not go beyond. So this time I told them we should start on a very high note and that’s where we should end and today, the game would not be over until it was over with the final whistle. Indeed this is exactly what they did and we eventually won so I’m very pleased with my girls that they listened to the instructions.”

She Cranes captain Irene Eyaru added: “On behalf of the team I’m so, so proud because we have been looking for a way of beating South Africa right from the word go. We wanted to show the whole world that Uganda is the best team in Africa… we decided to play our hearts out on court and if it means to die on court, we would die.”

South African coach Norma Plummer said afterwards: “Congratulations to Uganda. They kept possession of the ball, unfortunately, we wasted too many balls and you can’t afford to lose those sorts of balls. The game is possession and that’s where you win it. They took it to us, and they deserve the win in the end.”

Captain Bongi Msomi added: “We obviously wanted to win, it was very important to try and give it our best shot and maintain our ranking. Like Norma said, we just gave away too many balls. Kudos to them, they played really well today. Disappointed obviously, I still need to go back and try and feel this, at this point, I don’t even know what to feel.”

Vice-captain Karla Pretorius said: “Just very disappointed with our result but it comes back to ourselves, we didn’t play the way were supposed to. They just put us under a lot of pressure and against a team like this, you don’t win a lot of balls and you need to capitalise on it, and we did not do that today. So it’s really disappointing, we really wanted that win.”

SCORES

Q1: 11-12

Q2: 23-23 (12-11)

Q3: 37-39 (14-16)

Q4: 47-49 (10-10)

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Mary Cholhok (Uganda)

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