South Africa lost out to England in today’s bronze medal match, and although disappointed with that result, Potgieter was pleased with how her team tackled the World Cup as a whole.
“I think we’re disappointed in our performance today. The Roses brought their A game against us. But I’m really proud of my team for getting this far – we have really improved since the previous World Cup.
“I think if we played like we played against Australia (in the semi-final, where South Africa lost by two), it would have been a better game. There were great moments in the game, but we needed to be more consistent with them.
“I’m still very proud of the team – sad obviously that we didn’t medal, but we improved our ranking, so I’m very happy about that.”
In Tracey Neville’s last game as England coach, the Roses claimed their third successive World Cup bronze medal as they were too strong for the Proteas, who had to settle for fourth in the competition.
Backed once again by a vocal home crowd, England repeated a similar performance to the one they had produced against South Africa earlier in the tournament when they ran out 58-47 winners as Jo Harten and Helen Housby impressed.
Both sides entered the contest off the back of disappointing, narrow defeats, but neither team showed any signs of it affecting their play as the momentum of the contest swung back and forth in the lively opening exchanges.
Lenize Potgieter got South Africa off to a positive start, making her first five goal attempts and Housby, who started the game at goal shooter for England, also made a perfect start netting her first three shots as the score was 6-6 at the midway point.
As the quarter wore on, England began to force some turnovers from South Africa and as Harten settled into the game after missing her first shot of the contest, the Roses extended their lead to a many as four.
A turnover at the expense of Serena Guthrie, however, allowed South Africa to reduce the deficit back to one goal, but Harten scored her ninth consecutive goal of the quarter with just over ten seconds to go to give England a 14-12 lead.
The second quarter began with both sides showcasing their quality passing and movement as the ball moved quickly up and down the court. England were given the opportunity to build on their advantage when Maryka Holtzhausen missed her third goal attempt from seven and Housby made no mistake as England took an 18-14 lead.
England’s defence was continuing to force South Africa into errors and Harten and Housby were making them pay. The Roses’ lead was up to 23-16 at the halfway stage of the quarter after three straight goals from Housby.
The same pattern continued in the remaining minutes of the quarter as South Africa struggled to make any inroads into England’s lead, and it began to grow. Despite Potgieter keeping the scoreboard ticking for the Proteas, Housby (10/10) and Harten (5/5) were equally as good, scoring all 15 of their goal attempts as the Roses led 29-22 at half time.
South Africa coach Norma Plummer, who took charge of her 50th international for the Proteas, would have been looking for a response from her players as the second half began but it was England who started the better, scoring four of the first five goals.
Aided by captain Guthrie and Natalie Haythornthwaite, Harten and Housby continued to rack up the goals as England extended their advantage to twelve with four minutes remaining.
Potgieter and Holtzhausen both shot well for South Africa in the third quarter, but the Proteas’ general attacking play lacked consistency whereas England’s just seemed to get better. The Roses continued to build their lead and led by 14 heading into the final quarter.
The bronze medal was in the grasp of England as they began the final 15 minutes of the World Cup and the crowd knew it too ,as they created a party atmosphere as the final buzzer edged ever closer.
South Africa improved early on in the final period and began to force errors from England but any attempts to reduce the deficit were halted by Holtzhausen’s inconsistent shooting performance as she made just one of her opening five attempts.
England attacking duo of Housby and Harten just continued to shine and the host’s advantage continued to build. The Roses were much more relaxed and looked a different side from the one that had struggled against New Zealand.
As the clock ticked down, Neville began to make changes including bringing on goal shooter Rachel Dunn, who received an enormous reception as the home crowd acknowledged her and her bronze-medal winning team-mates.
South Africa’s Karla Pretorius said:
“What a journey it was for us. I feel like in this last game, we maybe didn’t play our own game, and it was because of the game they brought to us, so well done them – it was a great performance from them once again.”
England’s Rachel Dunn said:
“It was a close game yesterday, but there are close margins at the top of this sport. We were all a bit devastated yesterday, but we had time to deal with that and then today it was all about bronze. Everyone wanted to go out there and fight for it, and the girls put in an amazing performance and got that medal.”
In what was an absolutely pulsating game, South Africa made a mockery of their fifth-placed world ranking to run the holders and 11-time champions closer than many expected – with the two-goal winning margin making this the joint-closest World Cup semi-final ever.
Australia coach Lisa Alexander sprung a couple of surprises with her starting line-up, with both Caitlin Bassett and Courtney Bruce starting on the bench. For South Africa, Bongiwe Msomi – who limped out in the early stages of their previous match against England – was fit, and started at wing attack.
The South Africans were on the scoreboard first, through Lenize Potgieter, although she then missed an early chance to put daylight between the teams.
After that reprieve for Australia, the sides exchanged goals in the early stages, as an absorbing first quarter progressed. Nerves seemed to take hold of both midway through the quarter though, as a series of loose passes and some effective defensive pressure at both ends of the court put a temporary halt to the scoring at 6-6.
However, Australia’s intense pressure in the middle of the court was beginning to tell, and after they turned possession over, Caitlin Thwaites took the opportunity to put them ahead for the first time at 8-7.
Despite a couple of impressive interceptions by dynamic goal keeper Phumza Maweni, South Africa were unable to drag themselves back level, and an excellent piece of work by Jamie-Lee Price – combined with a held ball call against Potgieter – allowed the Diamonds to stretch their lead out to 14-10 after the first quarter.
Potgieter was again penalised for a held ball early in the second quarter, and mistakes were beginning to creep in elsewhere for the South Africans, as they were being forced to work hard for any piece of forward momentum.
The Australians, meanwhile, were continuing to find their shooters with comparative ease, and Thwaites and Tippett weren’t wasting any opportunities which came their way.
The lead stretched out to six, and was held at that margin for a period of time as Potgieter’s accuracy helped to keep the Proteas just about within touching distance.
However, that build-up of pressure told with a few minutes of the quarter remaining, as Paige Hadley and Jo Weston combined to force a turnover of possession. The ruthless nature of their team-mates’ shooting then ensured that the advantage was pushed out further, and although Tippett’s shot with the last action of the half didn’t land in time, the Diamonds still held a commanding 31-23 lead at the break.
South Africa needed a huge effort in the third quarter – and they got it.
Both sets of shooters were exceptional in the early stages, as the margin stuck at seven. However, when the Proteas needed a hero, up stepped Karla Pretorius, whose supreme reading of the game and timing turned possession over for the South Africans, who were finally able to take advantage of a glimpse of Australian weakness.
Three goals in a row from Potgieter and Maryka Holtzhausen brought them back to within three, and despite Thwaites having the final say in the quarter – and maintaining the Diamonds’ 100% record – the lead at the end of the third was down to 43-39.
Australia held the margin at four in the early stages of the fourth quarter, but when they were penalised for held ball, the South Africans – not to mention the majority of the crowd who had adopted the Proteas as they mounted their comeback – sensed an opportunity.
With ten minutes left, Potgieter reduced the deficit to one (45-44) and the already electric atmosphere was cranked up another level.
Two crucial Australian interventions – the first by Liz Watson and the second by Jamie-Lee Price – looked to have put the game firmly back in Australia’s grasp, but the Proteas weren’t done, and again came back to 50-49.
That vital additional turnover just proved elusive though, with the unerring accuracy of Thwaites – who finished at 100% – helping to edge Australia over the line, 55-53.
Australia’s Jo Weston said:
“We’re happy to make the final. It was pretty tough out there – their shooting circle and their defensive line were really impressive today, so although we weren’t as happy as we could have been with the second half, we had enough lead from our solid first-half performance to hold them out.”
South Africa’s Erin Burger said:
“I’m super proud. We knew we were representing our country and we had a lot to play for, and I think you could see that in our performance. We really left everything out on court – we wanted to have no regrets, and you could really see that in our performance.”
Bruce, who was Player of the Match as the Diamonds beat rivals New Zealand in the dying seconds on Thursday to confirm a semi-final fixture against South Africa, which will take place at 11:15am tomorrow.
She said post-match: “I guess that last 30 seconds was absolutely hectic. There was a lot of energy and emotion out there. It was a hard fought 60 minutes. It tested us the whole way, but I’m really proud of the girls, the way we finished that last 30 seconds, in particular, in the way we did, with that full team defensive effort.
“(It was) probably our first big test across all four quarters. We withstood the pressure really well in moments. Obviously, we still need to be able to ride out the momentum swings that are going our way and be able to push up from five goals, to six, to seven.”
Bruce, who now has 31 caps for her country, says that despite their impressive progress so far, Australia won’t be resting on their laurels.
Having won the three most recent World Cups – in Auckland, Singapore and Sydney – they arrived with only one objective: to win the tournament for a 12th time out of 17.
She explained: “We’ll do some recovery now and make sure we have got enough food into us, and then it will be a bit of recovery and start prepping.
“I think against South Africa, it’s going to be a huge challenge. They have had a fantastic tournament so far.”
South Africa and Australia meet in the first semi-final at 11:15am, and Van der Merwe is in no mood to attempt to play down the significance of the occasion for the Proteas.
“Saturday is go big or go home. For us, we need to start from the first centre pass to the last centre pass, going 100%.
“A game against the Aussies is always a physical game. I think Norma (Plummer, the South Africa coach, who is from Australia) will be excited, going against her home team.
“For us, going against the Aussies, it’s very important for us to keep possession of the ball and make sure our centre passes are executed into goals. If we get turnovers, we need to make sure we get that into goals. The team that makes the least mistakes is the one that will win on the day.”
The defender has enjoyed her experience of the tournament so far, which has included her adding five caps to her name, taking her total to 28 appearances for her country.
Van der Merwe said:
“We are having a blast, not just netball-wise but the vibe and the atmosphere here in Liverpool is great. We were here in January but it’s a much different atmosphere with all the people from different countries supporting netball.
“It’s been amazing for us. It’s the first time in 25 years that we have made the semi-finals, so people back home will be proud of us.”
Having faced the hosts, England, in their last game, Van der Merwe knows the power that the crowd can have, with the atmosphere electric whenever Tracey Neville’s side are on court.
“Everybody likes supporting England. It’s home ground, so obviously competing against the team and the crowd is sometimes difficult, but it’s just amazing to see that the people love netball. If anything good happens on court, there is a cheer (for either team).”
With the huge test of 11-time champions Australia next up, Van der Merwe believes that facing England in their final Group G was very good preparation for the challenge to come.
“There is always room for improvement. Our main focus was on Saturday whatever happened (against England), but for us, it was good competitive netball throughout the 60 minutes – good preparation going into the semi-finals.
“Always going up against England is very physical, but I think (nowadays) it’s not a non-contact sport. It doesn’t matter who you’re going up against, it’s always going to be very physical and a challenge for both sides.”
England recorded a sixth successive victory in the tournament thanks in the main to an utterly dominant first half, during which they displayed flair and control at both ends of the court.
England coach Tracey Neville named a strong starting line-up for the match, the result of which would decide who would contest which semi-final.
Her counterpart, Nora Plummer, elected to leave Erin Burger on the bench.
South Africa made the first error of the match, as the ball bounced out of play early on. England capitalised, as two goals from Helen Housby gave the Roses a 5-2 advantage.
England were clicking into gear early on, but by contrast South Africa suffered a huge blow when their influential centre, Bongiwe Msomi, limped off with a knock.
Harten and Housby looked in sumptuous form, and the partisan crowd lapped up the performance as a confident-looking England extended their lead out to 16-9.
There was still time for an increase in the noise levels in the first quarter though, as the irrepressible Harten delighted the Roses fans with a long-range effort that gave a 19-11 gloss to the scoreline.
The Roses were in danger of disappearing out of sight early in the second quarter, as Harten and Housby continued their own personal scoring battle. Harten overtook Housby to lead that contest 12-11, while South Africa were evidently missing the dynamism usually provided by Msomi.
Harten was flawless up until this point, whereas at the other end, Maryka Holtzhausen was finding that luck was deserting her, as another of her attempts bounced out.
The first blot on Harten’s copy book arrived late in the first half, but her clinical performance up until then helped England to a 31-20 lead at the break.
England continued to move the ball with confidence in the third quarter, and Housby was the first to register in the second half.
The Proteas surged back though, and were given renewed hope by an upping in their intensity and a couple of uncharacteristic England errors.
Harten restored England’s ten-goal cushion as the score moved out to 38-28, and the South African third-quarter revival was brought to an abrupt end as England finished the quarter with a flurry of Housby and Harten goals giving them a 43-30 advantage ahead of the final quarter.
For the fourth quarter, Sigrid Burger was brought in to lead the South African attack, but an early miss allowed the Roses to extend their lead to 46-33.
South Africa again came back fighting, and would win the final quarter by two – England’s first quarter-defeat in the tournament up until now – but Neville took the opportunity to switch her line-up around with the semi-final now firmly in mind.
Serena Guthrie and Jo Harten were among those rested, but Housby remained on for the full match and fittingly ended the England scoring, netting her 24th as the Roses ran out 58-47 winners.
The semi-final line-up is now complete: England will face New Zealand and South Africa take on holders Australia.
England’s Geva Mentor said:
“We weren’t too sure what to expect – obviously South Africa had a really good performance against Jamaica earlier in the week, but for us it was important that we focused on ourselves and started strong, and I thought we did that.
“We were really pleased with that performance and how it sets us up for the semi-final on Saturday.”
South Africa are in the semi-finals, while Uganda, Zimbabwe and Malawi are still in the hunt for fifth, meaning that this is the the first ever tournament at which four African nations will have finished in the top eight.
Proscovia, whose Uganda play Malawi tomorrow, said:
“It’s great news for the development of netball in Africa generally. For South Africa to push up into the top four is amazing – that is all of Africa performing and we are so proud of it.”
Of the battle for fifth – between the three remaining African nations and Jamaica – she said:
“It’s amazing to have all of us compete again, and it’s a great procedure that allows us to have a hope of getting to fifth. But all I can say is let the best team win – we are going to come in well prepared.”
In a tournament which is being talked about as the most open in the competition’s history, South Africa, England, Australia and New Zealand have all claimed semi-final places, and will all fancy their chances of lifting the trophy – for what would be a first time in the case of England and South Africa.
After South Africa’s win over Uganda today, Pretorius said:
“How great is that (the open nature of the tournament) for netball? It’s creating a great world cup. We know what we need to do and what we can achieve as a team.
“We don’t take this for granted. It’s a lot of hard work in the four years leading up to a World Cup, so we can celebrate the fact that we’re in the semi-final, but we still have work to do.”
The identity of the semi-finalists is confirmed, but the fixtures will only be known once the final Group F and G fixtures have taken place tomorrow.
South Africa and England meet at 8pm, and Pretorius is relishing the challenge of playing the host nation in front of another vocal M&S Bank Arena crowd.
“It will be a tough battle tomorrow, but we’re looking forward to it.
“We draw confidence from previous encounters with England, but tomorrow is a new environment and a new game.
“You don’t tend to hear the crowd too much, but we know where the South African fans are sitting, so when we need some extra energy we can draw it from them.”
With Australia and New Zealand having already booked their places in the semi-finals, England and South Africa also recorded their fifth wins of the competition (against Trinidad and Tobago and Uganda respectively) today.
While the identity of the final four is now known, the semi-final fixtures will be decided tomorrow, as two mouth-watering matches help to set up a fantastic day 7 of the tournament.
New Zealand and Australia meet at 10:30am, while England and South Africa bring the curtain down on the six-game day at 8pm.
All teams in Group F and G complete their Preliminaries stage two fixtures tomorrow, with the competition then moving forward into the Play-offs and Placing stage.
A full fixture list is available here.
Their 67-40 win ensures that the Proteas and England join Australia and New Zealand in the last four.
A strong middle phase of the game from Uganda narrowed the early gap that South Africa had established, but the Proteas’ ability to snatch possession and punish errors ultimately resulted in a comfortable victory.
Maryka Holzhausen and Lenize Potgieter helped South Africa to get their noses in front early on, while the trademark assured passing of Bongiwe Msomi was a feature early on.
Uganda were stern opponents from the start though, and came back to within one, missing the chance to equalise when Stella Oyella’s shot lacked accuracy. Shadine Van der Merwe then produced a close-range interception to get her side back on track, with them soon re-establishing a decent gap.
Potgieter was ruthless in front of goal, meanwhile at the other end, Oyella was outscoring her team-mate Peace Proscovia.
Potgieter eventually registered a miss with South Africa’s 24th shot of the game, but both teams continued to score at a good rate, with Uganda producing the composure and accuracy in front of goal to outscore their opponents 13-12 in the second quarter.
The lead South Africa had accumulated in the first quarter saw them through to half time with a lead, though, at 31-23. It had been a competitive first half between the top two nations in Africa, and both sets of attackers had impressed, shooting at over 90% accuracy.
The competitive nature of the contest continued into the third quarter, with an Oyella-inspired Uganda bringing the gap down to five at one point, 35-30.
However, her miss from under the post then proved costly, as South Africa sensed an opportunity to turn the screw. A change at goal keeper for Uganda failed to stop the flow of Potgieter goals, and although the boisterous Ugandan fans in the crowd were doing their best to lift their team, the game was slipping away from the She Cranes.
South Africa won the third quarter 15-10, taking an overall 46-33 lead into the final quarter.
History was beckoning for South Africa, as despite their second-placed finish in 1995, changes to the format of the tournament meant they had never actually played in a semi-final before.
They weren’t in the mood to let history slip away, and had stretched their lead to 16 within the opening minutes of the final quarter. Athleticism from Msomi and accuracy from Potgieter and Holtzhausen contributed to the Proteas’ most dominant quarter of the game, as they ensured that their semi-final spot was booked with a relatively comfortable margin of victory in the end.
The Proteas will now face fellow unbeaten side England in a clash to determine who will win the group, and whether their opponents in the semi will be current holders Australia or New Zealand.
South Africa’s Karla Pretorius said:
“We knew they were going to be a tough opponent – they always bring their best game against us. They have a typical African style of play and it definitely wasn’t easy for us – it was hard work but a good start and a good finish got us through.”