The last day of the fourth round of the Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League at the Bellville Velodrome yesterday proved to be a good day for the minnows.
The two teams at the bottom of the log lost their matches, but both gave a very good account of themselves against much stronger teams.
The Eastern Cape Aloes beat the Diamonds 63-33, but the Northern Cape side pushed hard in the first half, and won the second quarter by 13 goals to 10. It was the first quarter they have won this year.
Aloes coach Des Neville made wholesale changes as she tried out different combinations.
Both sides managed to overturn the ball and the circle battles were fierce, although the Aloes were without their Proteas goalkeeper, Jeanie Steyn, who has a foot injury after being knocked off her scooter.
Diamonds coach Maria Maiya said she was very proud of the way her team had performed. “I think we are finally getting the combinations right and things are coming together,” she said.
“Our big problem is a lack of fitness and also, the vast distances we have to travel mean that team practices are hard to arrange, with half the players in Kuruman and others in Kimberley.
“But we are having a practice session on Friday before travelling to Cape Town for our match against the Mpumalanga Sunbirds.”
Neville said she had been impressed by the Diamonds’ commitment and intensity.
Referring to her own team, she said she had been particularly pleased that Lauren-Lee Christians, who joined the Aloes from the Crinums, appeared to be settling down to a different playing style.
“I think she’s finally finding her feet, and I was very happy with the way she and Arne Rust worked together at centre and wing attack respectively.
“We’ll be taking a lot of confidence from this weekend as we prepare for our match against the Fireballs next weekend.”
The Sunbirds gave the defending champions, the Free State Crinums, a run for their money. The Crinums won the match by 64 goals to 34, but the Sunbirds made them work hard for their goals.
Their defenders, Chandi Venter and Palesa Mbokwane, showed scant respect for the reputations of the Crinums attack, including Proteas captain and goal attack Maryka Holtzhausen, and succeeded with a number of turnovers and rebounds.
But the Crinums were outstanding.