SOUTH Africa’s Invitational team rounded off an incredible week of international netball by claiming the second annual Diamond Challenge with another dominant performance in beating Zimbabwe 59-45 in Port Elizabeth yesterday.
It was an inspiring performance by a young team that had come together only a few days before the event as Netball South Africa released all but three of the SPAR Proteas players due to work and study commitments ahead of the Fast 5 series that takes place in New Zealand next month.
Undeterred by their more experienced opposition, they displayed defensive guile and attacking finesse that was simply beyond their years.
In the offensive circle Lindie Lombard was untouchable, creating space with her quick, zigzagging runs and drawing out the Zimbabwean defence.
In defence the team soaked up the pressure with a Vital Player-of-the-Match performance by Shadine van der Merwe, and the V6 engine in the centre captain Bongiwe Msomi worked every inch of the court to provide options in both attack and defence.
It was a combination that secured numerous turnovers.
Unlike their first two games of the series South Africa dominated from the start, mesmerising the Zimbabweans with their speed, movement and clinical shooting by goal shooter Dumisani Chauke.
Zimbabwe’s defence was placed under tremendous pressure and found wanting as South Africa exploited the space in the circle at will.
South Africa raced to a 15 goals to 5 lead with just 10 minutes on the clock and the quarter ended with a 19 to 11 lead.
Chasing the game in the second quarter Zimbabwe threw everything into it, mindful of not falling too far behind.
They went toe to toe with their neighbours to hold them to 14-13 to go into the half-time break down but in touching distance at 33-24.
South Africa held on to outscore Zimbabwe 15 points to 10 in the third quarter to lead by 48 to 34 before an equal points tally of 11 each in the fourth quarter secured them their second Diamond Challenge title in a row.
Msomi was chosen Vital Player of the Series.