The Proteas and Tracey Neville’s Roses both have six points, and look to be favourites to secure the two semi-final berths on offer to teams in their group.
However, after their first rest day of the tournament tomorrow, both have another fixture to contend with before Thursday’s showdown: England take on Trinidad and Tobago while South Africa face Uganda.
Msomi says that the talent the She Cranes possess means that South Africa can’t afford to let their focus wander to the England clash.
“We have Uganda next, and they’re not just another side – they’re a quality side and we’ll have a big game against them, so we are focusing on that. Whatever happens elsewhere in the group, we have to perform to benefit ourselves.
“We have to switch on if we want to work through the tournament – we have so much respect for all the teams here. It’s game-by-game and we have to be switched on still, because we can’t take anyone for granted – that’s why this tournament is huge this year.”
South Africa took on Scotland today, and recorded a comfortable 66-38 victory – their fourth from four in the competition so far.
Of their campaign, Msomi said:
“It’s been amazing – it’s been a good journey for us. We came up with the win yesterday against Jamaica and that was amazing for us. We couldn’t have asked for a better win to give us some confidence going forward.
“Today, against Scotland, everyone did really well and we played well. We came here with 12 players to come on court whenever we need to, and it’s the coach’s strategy to work things out and save legs where we can. We know we’ve got great players to step on court and perform and I think we did that really well.”
The result, coupled with England’s earlier win over Jamaica, means that the Roses and Proteas are locked on six points each at the top of the group, ahead of Thursday’s potential group decider.
Scotland more than held their own against their higher-ranked opponents in the early stages, capitalising on the fumble in South Africa’s attack to open up a 5-3 lead.
South Africa’s threat was never far away though, and good interplay between Bongiwe Msomi, Izette Griesel and Renske Stoltz saw them claw their way back and eventually establish a 15-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.
They extended that lead in the second quarter, as their composure and quality began to tell, and to force mistakes from the Thistles. The Proteas, by contrast, were making fewer errors and Lenize Potgieter looked particularly good in the circle, helping her side to take a 32-20 lead into the break.
South Africa’s attack was changed in the third quarter, but the new combination of Sigrid Burger and Maryka Holtzhausen continued to push the Proteas on, as the young Thistles side struggled to find opportunities.
Emma Barrie did add new impetus to the Scots’ attack after coming on, but South Africa continued to move further clear, ending the third quarter 49-32 up.
With the result beyond doubt, the final quarter was a more defensive affair, as each team struggled to find goal opportunities in the first five minutes. The tiredness began to show in Scotland, who were coming off the back of an energy-sapping defeat against Uganda, while Burger and Holtzhausen kept the scoreboard ticking over for South Africa, who finished 66-38 winners.
Scotland’s Emma Barrie said:
“We had some good stuff out on court but we were lacking consistency. We’ll go back and look at some analysis, see where we went wrong and try and fix it for our next match.”
In what was the game of the tournament so far, the Proteas edged a feisty and entertaining encounter.
Pundits tipped the match to be a closely-fought and tense encounter, and that was exactly how it panned out with an end-to-end, entertaining game in store for those inside the M&S Bank Arena to savour.
Both sides had beaten Trinidad and Tobago and Fiji – the other two members of Group C – over the course of the last two days, but this decider was always going to be the toughest match for both in the Preliminaries Stage One.
South Africa, who are currently ranked fifth in the world, had only ever beaten Jamaica – who are behind only Australia in the world rankings – once at a World Cup, losing four times previously.
It was they who struck first, through goal shooter Lenize Potgieter, though Jamaica were quick to reply with a goal of their own.
With top spot on the line, the first quarter began at a frantic speed. South African goal attack Maryka Holtzhausen lacked precision in front of the net as she converted only half of her 10 attempts, but despite that, her side edged in front.
That lead was largely gained thanks to the clinical Potgieter, who scored each of her 11 shots. Only timely defending from Jamaican goalkeeper Shamera Sterling, winning cap number 34 for her country, prevented her from scoring more.
As the whistle blew for the end of an intense first quarter, South Africa led by five goals, with the scoreline standing at 16-9.
As the match progressed, the quickness of world-class movement and speed of play from both sides showed no signs of lapsing; if anything, it was set to increase.
Driven forward by centre Adean Thomas, Jamaica attempted to cut the deficit and looked set to successfully do so with a strong eight-minute spell.
South Africa, though, ended the half strongly, heading in for the break 32-21 in front, their advantage deservedly extended to 11 goals.
Bongiwe Msomi, who became the third South African player to reach a century of international appearances yesterday in the Proteas’ victory over Fiji, saw much of the ball in the first half of the game, but her influence waned during the third quarter as Jamaica threatened a comeback.
Jamaican goalkeeper Sterling clashed off the ball with South African goal shooter Potgieter as the game began to simmer. The bumping of chests between the pair was a sign of the heightened emotions that come in an end-to-end match of such significance.
The halt in play to sort out the disagreement, however, did not knock Jamaica out of their stride. Rather, they continued to push on in search of more goals required to close the gap.
Pushed on by an ever-more-vocal crowd, they won the third quarter 17-10, fired forward by goal shooter Jhaniele Fowler’s 96% proficiency in front of goal, cutting the difference in scoreline to just four to set up an exciting finish.
The final quarter was the most frantic of all, with Jamaica pushing closer and closer to overhauling the deficit, ultimately falling just short.
They drew level with 10 minutes remaining in the game before Potgieter dragged her side back in front once again with a cool finish under the pressure of the game and an opposing defender.
Back and forth the momentum swung as Jamaica levelled twice, only for South Africa to pull ahead once again at the last, showing grit and steel to deal a hammer blow of their own.
A three-goal lead with seven minutes remaining momentarily became two with six minutes left on the clock, but that was the tightest the scoreline got in the closing stages.
Jamaica won the final quarter 14-13 – but were still three goals short overall. South Africa’s lead, garnered over the course of the first half, was just about sufficient for them to edge over the line as they remained – just about – in front.
The standing ovation for both sides after a sensational match-up was thoroughly deserved.
South Africa’s Lenize Potgieter said:
“It’s an amazing feeling – you have no idea! To beat the number two side in the world, to be in a team that never gives up – we were up by quite a few and then almost equal, but we just kept on fighting. I’m proud of everyone – super proud of coaches, players, supporters. I can’t explain this feeling!
“The atmosphere was amazing. When the scores were level the crowd were on their feet. That’s a game that people want to watch!
“I think we are able to beat anyone in the world. It’s just about staying together, having honest conversations and not taking them personally. I think we’re strong enough to take a medal at this competition but we don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves.”
Msomi was part of the Proteas team which recorded the tournament’s highest goal tally in an individual game so far, as they beat Fiji 90-35 today.
Afterwards, she said:
“It means so much. I forgot it was going to be my 100th cap today until we got to a meeting. There was a little bit of a celebration before we came here. As honoured as I am, I’m really glad to see the performance that the girls put in on the court.
“For me, it’s always been about the team and playing some great netball for my country. Sometimes, you try to do that and it doesn’t happen, and when it does happen, then you take the pride from that.
“I’m excited. Not everyone gets that (to 100) and if you do, it means you’ve worked so hard to get there, so I’m really proud of how far I’ve come.”
Msomi follows England’s Jo Harten and Northern Ireland’s Caroline O’Hanlon in bringing up the milestone at the Vitality Netball World Cup.
Fiji, who have the youngest average age of any squad at the tournament, lost heavily 85-29 in their opening game against Jamaica. It was a similar story here.
Only two members of their travelling party played at the World Cup in 2015; for the rest, this is their first experience of a tournament at this level.
The pair had only met once previously at a World Cup, back in 1999, with South Africa winning that game 57-49.
The match began at rapid speed, with the raucous Fiji supporters making plenty of noise in the stands. They could do nothing, however, to prevent South Africa from storming into a 12-2 lead less than six minutes into the contest.
Lenize Potgieter and Renske Stoltz were ruthless in front of the net, while centre Izette Griesel, who celebrated her birthday yesterday, turning 27 on the same day as her country opened their World Cup campaign with a victory, dominated proceedings from the middle third of the court.
Wing attack Bongiwe Msomi, who started the match to earn her 100th South Africa cap, was also getting the better of her direct opponent, Fiji wing defence Ema Mualuvu.
South Africa continued to press forward in search of more goals and were leading comfortably after the first segment of the match. By the end of the first quarter, the Proteas were leading by 15 goals, 24-9.
As the second period began, South Africa were able to press on further, safe in the knowledge that they had built up a substantial lead early on in the game.
With Fiji’s passing lacking slickness, South Africa were able to pick off loose balls with ease, capitalising on even small errors of judgement on several occasions and counter-attacking to excellent effect.
Potgieter took her attempts record to 33 goals from 34 shots in the game at the halfway mark, as South Africa cruised in for half-time with a 28-goal advantage.
Goal shooter Sigrid Burger, 23, replaced Potgieter at half-time, and she immediately made her mark on the match with three quick-fire goals in the space of 90 seconds.
Before the third quarter was up, Burger had added a further 10 goals to her tally, with goal attack Stoltz also chipping in with seven.
At the end of the penultimate quarter, South Africa’s lead had been stretched to 42 goals, with the score standing at 67-25.
With the result all but wrapped up, Maryka Holtzhausen replaced Stoltz as goal shooter for the final 15 minutes.
She scored six times as South Africa comfortably strolled over the line to a resounding 90-35 win.
South Africa will be hoping to maintain their 100% record when they face Jamaica, who have also won both of their matches so far, tomorrow. The winner of that game will finish top of Group C.
Having lost by 56 goals in their first game and now by 55 here, Fiji were once again well beaten, although their fans inside the M&S Bank Arena maintained their vocal support. They will play Trinidad and Tobago as the Preliminaries Stage One conclude.
John-Davis made history by competing in her sixth World Cup, but was unable to stop her side slipping to a 76-45 defeat.
The sides traded goals in the early stages, however the Proteas quickly got into their stride, taking advantage of overthrown passes to take an 8-4 lead.
However, to the delight of the crowd, the Calypso Girls hit back strongly, narrowing the deficit to just one goal, before spurning an opportunity to equalise following an interception. After winning possession back in similar fashion, South Africa then pulled away, stretching their lead to four goals, and holding a 19-15 advantage.
In the second quarter, the South Africans made three consecutive possessions tell, with their attackers taking the score to 22-15, as the Caribbean side struggled to contain the unerring precision of their opponents.
The potent attacking pair of Lenize Potgieter and Maryka Holtzhausen ensured that the lead stretched to 10 goals. The middle phase of the quarter was scrappy, with both sides conceding possession easily. Erin Burger’s interception helped the South Africans ease further ahead though, as they established a 38-25 lead.
Throughout the half, wing attack Bongiwe Msomi was a driving force, with her accurate, quick passes giving her team-mates good chances to score. A typical interception from her meant that South Africa entered the dressing rooms at half time with a commanding 40-25 lead and left the Calypso Girls with a mountain to climb in the second half.
Trinidad and Tobago started the second half listlessly, conceding possession too often in promising situations. South Africa continued their relentless dominance taking the score out to 45-28. The difference between the sides was a reflection of the ability of the Proteas to exploit the space in the shooting arc. Potgeiter’s focussed shooting in front of the net was a constant – she had 98% accuracy as South Africa extended the advantage to 54-32. Both teams exchanged a couple more goals before the end of the third quarter.
The fourth would prove to be a more even affair, with both teams regularly scoring . However South Africa produced a sudden burst of goals and were comfortably in front as John-Davis was substituted, bringing to an end her historic appearance.
South Africa’s Bongiwe Msomi said:
“At first it was a little shaky. But the second quarter, we stepped up. We did not know what to expect, we did not know how they played. Then the second quarter was better, because we could work things out.”