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17 Nov 2007 10:46
The Spar Proteas netball team suffered a painful 52-49 loss against Malawi in the play-off for fifth and sixth place at the World Championships on Saturday.
After crashing out of the quarterfinals earlier this week, the Proteas side set their sights firmly on holding on to fifth place on the world rankings, and were well on their way to getting there until a determined Malawi side woke up.
Unlike most of their games here this week, the Proteas hit the ground running and were ahead early in the match. They went through the motions with very little flair, but their gameplan was working.
The passes were short and effective and the ball was getting into the circle.
By the end of the first quarter, the Proteas were 16-10 ahead and looked in much better shape than their Malawian counterparts.
Coach Burta de Kock, however, then opted for two substitutions that changed the game completely. The coach took captain Bronwyn Bock-Jonathan off at centre and replaced her with Siminikiwe Malusi and took Karin Venter off in favour of Adele Niemand at goal-keep. The switch at the back made little impact, but Malusi made far too many errors at centre and cost the team some vital passes.
Missed passes and loss of possession eroded the team’s morale and they just couldn’t put a decent play together as the clock ticked down. Malawi took a 42-37 lead in to the final break and were firmly in the driving seat. De Kock brought Venter and Bock-Jonathan back on in the final quarter, but it was a case of too little, too late.
“I tried bringing on fresh legs and it didn’t work because they just presented us with fewer options,” said de Kock.
“We fell back on our old style of playing and that’s where we went wrong.”
The final five minutes saw the Proteas close the gap and they threatened to pull it back, but Malawi got the ball back and played their excessive passing game to beat the clock. It worked and the Proteas lost out yet again.
“We are very disappointed that we’ve now finished in sixth place,” said Bock-Jonathan. “We might have to go the tough route and qualify for the next championships under difficult circumstances in Africa and that’s what we didn’t want.”
The teams have now played each other seven times in the past year-and-a-half with South Africa losing five of those matches. Malawi knocked the Proteas out of the Commonwealth Games in March last year and beat them in the Cosana Games final as well.
Perhaps it was a mental thing for the Proteas, but looking at the records, the Malawians deserved to finish ahead of them on the world rankings.
New Zealand take on Australia in the final of the tournament on Saturday. - Sapa
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