The SPAR Proteas continued their unbeaten run in the Diamond Netball Challenge when they secured a 56-39 win over Uganda at the Ugu Sports and Leisure Centre in Gamalakhe on Thursday evening.
The victory meant South Africa went through the round robin stage of the competition without dropping a match.
They will meet arch-rivals Malawi in the final on Friday night.
The Proteas did not have things all their own way. The Ugandan goal attack Rachael Nanyonga had an outstanding game, netting most of her attempts in the circle and the She Cranes never gave up.
Coach Norma Plummer made some changes to the Proteas line-up, with Lindie Lombard starting the match for the first time since a long lay-off because of injury and newcomer Nokubonga Sibiya starting at centre.
Pumza Maweni also got her chance to start as goalkeeper, and performed so well she won the player of the match award.
Captain Maryka Holtzhausen sat out the early stages of the match, until the dynamic wing attack Bongi Msomi had to leave the court after being hit in the face in the third quarter.
Uganda started slowly and the Proteas were five goals up before the She Cranes scored their first goal. South Africa were 15-6 ahead after the first quarter.
Uganda were outstanding in the second quarter, at one stage scoring five unanswered goals before the Proteas came back hard.
The quarter was a tie, with both teams scoring 12 goals and at halftime, the Proteas led 27-18.
Plummer made some changes in the third quarter, bringing Adele Niemand on for Karla Mostert at goal attack, and replacing Sibiya with Izette Lubbe.
Midway through the quarter, Msomi fell flat on her back after being elbowed in the left eye. Niemand moved to wing attack and Holtzhausen came on as goal attack.
South Africa began to edge away from the Ugandans, outscoring them by 15 goals to 10.
There was joy for Elsunet du Plessis in the final quarter, when goalkeeper Lenize Potgieter sustained a hand injury, and Du Plessis was able to make her first appearance for South Africa.
The very vocal multiracial crowd got behind the Proteas and the noise level rose as the minutes ticked by.
“It was very physical and Uganda kept coming back at us,” said Holtzhausen after the match.
“We just couldn’t get away from them. We let them back in the game, and we certainly can’t do that against Malawi tomorrow.”
She said she was happy with the win, but disappointed that the team had not implemented coach Plummer’s game plans properly.
“Norma likes the short pass, and we tend to use the long pass when things get tough and we have to learn to do things her way.”
She said the team was very excited about working with Plummer.
“She has a different perspective, and she has coached a team that won the World Cup. She knows what it takes.
“I know we don’t have much time before the World Cup, but we’re willing to work hard and follow her ideas. She is making a huge difference.”
In the earlier match of the evening, Malawi thrashed Zambia 60-34. Zambia lost all their round robin matches, while Malawi were only beaten by South Africa.
Zambia will be desperate to avoid a winless campaign when they take on Uganda in the third/fourth place play-off on Friday at 18.00 before the much-anticipated final between the Proteas and world number five-ranked Malawi at 19.45.
Friday 19 June fixtures:
18:00 – Third/fourth place play-off: Uganda vs Zambia
19:45 – Final: South Africa vs Malawi
Photos by Reg Caldecott