The powerful South African Proteas built throughout the Quad Series and tasted victory against England in a well-executed, consistent team performance. Despite admirable Roses midcourt defense, the Proteas harnessed the key strengths of each player in their attacking structure and showed confidence and flair with no discernible drop-offs throughout the match. Connections through the midcourt to the shooting circle were good for England, but ultimately it was the slick, quick, and varied delivery of pass to the extremely accurate Lenize Potgieter that left the English defenders flat, as she led her team to a three-goal win.

 

Starting lineups

England
GS – Kadeen Corbin
GA – Helen Housby
WA – Chelsea Pitman
C – Serena Guthrie
WD – Beth Cobden
GD – Ama Agbeze
GK – Geva Mentor
Bench -Eboni Beckford-Chambers, Eleanor Cardwell, Jo Harten, Jade Clarke, Stacey Francis
Coach – Tracey Neville

 

South Africa
GS – Lenize Potgieter
GA – Maryka Holtzhausen
WA – Bongiwe Msomi
C – Erin Burger
WD – Precious Mthembu
GD – Karla Mostert
GK – Phumza Maweni
Bench – Danielle Lochner, Nadia Uys-Pienaar, Ine-Mari Venter, Zenele Vimbela, Rochelle Loubser
Coach – Elsje Jordaan

Umpires – Kristie Simpson, Clare McCabe, Josh Bowring (reserve)

 

The match began on-par with expectations, excellent strength and deceptive movements from the two in-form wing attacks, and assured shooting all around. Serena Guthrie pulled in tough balls under pressure and moments later found tips to disrupt South Africa’s flow, while umpire McCabe reminded the English shooter Kadeen Corbin that offensive contacts were a permanent fixture on the menu.

The Proteas seemed to be able to sight Lenize Potgieter early and from a variety of angles, while England generally crafted the ball in using patience and width before a more direct pass. The first mini-break came with a miss each from Maryka Holtzhausen and Potgieter, allowing England to hit 8-4 after eight minutes.

Beautiful anticipation and foot speed from Erin Burger and Precious Mthembu gave the Proteas a chance at defensive tips, but the ball fell to Roses hands. Corbin, as the spring winds outside, was looking icy on the shot.

Excellent pressure from Guthrie and Beth Cobden garnered no reward, as the improved body positioning of, drives by, and passes to Bongiwe Msomi were spot on time after time. In the next phase, the one-on-one defense was embarrassed by another sensational lob from Burger to Potgieter, and in the next play a perfectly executed swing across court to the Protea centre, with the right hold, pass and shot from the shooter a pleasure to watch. South Africa now trailed only 9-10 with three minutes to the first break.

Accuracy had returned for South Africa, as had the smile from Potgieter, as the scores levelled. Hotlzhausen was contributing well by distracting Agbeze with constant movement, and then with a tip on the defensive transverse line. Right on the whistle a gutsy pass from Pitman to Housby was awarded a penalty, but with a failed timid shot the English team hit the bench facing a 9-3 run of goals, now 11-13 down at quarter time.

At the resumption of play Eboni Beckford-Chambers entered the game at goal defense for England, replacing Agbeze. The switching in circle from Karla Mostert and Phumza Maweni was magical, eventually undone by a penalty, with the amusement of Mostert as the Kiwi umpire missed the type of push-off from Corbin that was penalised in the first quarter.

Chelsea Pitman and Helen Housby showed good organisation of the centre pass, switching leads and giving the former Australian wing attack acres of space on second phase near the circle. Their opposition didn’t fare so well, with Holtzhausen failing to move at all off the line at her captain’s direction, the ball sailing out and gifting England the confidence to move to 16-15.

Mostert’s knack for reading play saw a sequence of deflections. Firstly, a stunning tip off Corbin’s shot which was snaffled by Housby; a run-through intercept that was forced into a hail-Mary pass when her front line were jammed up by England, and finally clean possession to the front line after a telling rebound. It remained too easy for Pitman and Msomi to do as they wished, both employing their own brands of preliminary moves and crisp passing to dominate play.

There was unquestionable commitment, too, as they kept driving irrespective of the likely hits from beside and behind, and guaranteed floor-time on each foray forwards. In particular, Msomi’s placement of the ball to the second phase and her resetting to the attacking transverse with an immediate cut and drive were each flawless.

Housby maintained her good form from previous matches, more available and calmer than her shooting partner, scoring the 60% of England’s goals in the first half, at 94% accuracy. In a sensational set play, Guthrie almost slammed into the circle but caught Housby on drive to post, followed up by a steadier feed to the dodge to the front from Pitman. Not to be outdone, Burger delivered another classic lob to Potgieter through a forest of red, copied moments later from almost the half-way line by Msomi.

Roses coach Tracey Neville, seeking to have two goalers on strike, made a switch at shooter for the second half, bringing the calm of Jo Harten back after a cautious week’s rest with a foot injury.

At first the play was all the way of South Africa, continuing the success of their classic plan A: Holtzhausen available to take a free pass in generous space, but not feeding or shooting all that often, allowing instead the other three forwards to dominate in those stats. It was a pattern that worked, with Potgieter taking far fewer long shots than against New Zealand and Australia, and keeping her stats in the mid-nineties.

With the score already 34-29 to the Proteas after five minutes, England needed a strategy change, which they decided required the introduction of and Francis at goal defense in her first game of the series, and Jade Clarke at wing defense. Whilst they warmed into the match, the connection of Msomi and Holtzhausen on set plays was dynamite. The South Africans were backing each other’s athleticism, placing quite long and well-weighted balls to space and very rarely losing possession. They lead 37-34 with five minutes left to the final exchange.

Twice Harten was involved in lucky retrievals of rebounds from the hands of off-balance South Africans. The presence of her with Guthrie provided a different formula, many years playing for England and for Giants shining through, but the new shooter only hit seven from ten for the quarter.

Francis, though full of beans, was not doing any better than the two before her, and Mentor still struggled with ball coming in fast and from all angles. The scintillating play of Msomi continued, cut and drive through tiny spaces featuring as the quarter ended 42-38 to South Africa.

Another change for England saw Beckford-Chambers replace Mentor at the back, hoping to provide a bit more muscle and take up more space. Pitman was doing everything possible to drag her team back to parity, taking a sizzling intercept straight off a turnover, and firing beautiful passes to shooters stopping on a dime.

Still, the faith in the Proteas to fling the ball wide and then back to the space created was working too well, and they moved to 47-41 after five minutes. They would time and again be forced to pass wide or backwards, but always move the next pass back to the middle channel.

In the second half the English players were more set on holding in the circle, knowing the propensity of Mostert to throw out an arm for the obstruction. Harten in particular was able to exploit the hold, with more height than Corbin before her, and she coupled this with less obvious fend-offs of Maweni.

England stood up well to intense physicality from South Africa, as Pitman was double-teamed on the centre pass, and Burger’s rough treatment of Guthrie was seen well by the umpire. In a last-ditch attempt to win ball with the captain’s X-factor, Agbeze came into goal keeper with four minutes to go. With a poor feed to Potgieter there seemed to be a spark from Guthrie and Pitman, and fire from the whole Roses squad. Housby nailed a mid-range shot and it was 51-53 with two minutes remaining.

With a contact from Mostert, a great jump over the shot of Housby by Maweni was followed by a timely rebound. The whole stadium was on edge, and South Africans started to freeze the ball and delay the previously-confident passes to their shooters. Just in time they steadied, and a contact from Francis in the circle sealed the win for the Proteas – their first in any Quad Series.

 

South Africa 54 def England 51
Player of the match –
Erin Burger (South Africa)

 

England
Corbin 10/13 76%
Housby 26/29 90%
Harten 15/18 83%
51/60 85%

South Africa
Potgieter 43/45 96%
Holtzhausen 11/15 73%
54/60 90%

 

 

Spotlight on defence

South Africa
Burger – 15 goal assists, 4 deflections, 9 penalties
Mostert – 3 intercepts, 5 deflections, 2 rebounds, 11 penalties
Maweni – 4 defections, 4 rebounds, 20 penalties

England
Guthrie – 12 goal assists, 5 deflections, 9 penalties
Agbeze – 1 intercepts, 1 deflection, 3 penalties
Mentor – 1 intercept, 1 deflection, 7 penalties

 

What they said

Lenize Potgieter

On her feelings, and the effort of her team
“You have no idea! I haven’t felt this way in a while – I’m glad it could be this game, showing what teamwork does, what God does, and all the experience from all the players and new coaches. It was just an amazing game!”

“I’m so proud of my attacking group. Me and Maryka (Holtzhausen) struggled in the first game against New Zealand to get our rhythm, but I think this game we gelled at last after a whole year not playing together. Her job is to open up the space for me, and then play into the spaces that are available – that’s exactly what she did. Bongi (Msomi) also has that experience playing against these players in the England league – she brings what she knows about how to counteract them. With Erin, all the loopy passes into the circle were just on point tonight, and everything worked in our favour. That’s what teamwork is about.”

On her relationship with new head coach Elsje Jordaan
“We have a very good relationship, she has been my coach before. I like her style of coaching, her presence is just amazing.”

 

Helen Housby

On the team and her game
“Any time you lose you’re not happy. I would take the worst performance of my life if the England girls could win. South Africa came out hard, we knew they would do that. That’s the best I’ve seen them play, but we still have to own it, we weren’t good enough, and we’ll go back to the drawing board. I’m happy with my game, I’m shooting well, but that’s not the be-all and end-all. There were areas tonight where we let our intensity drop, and I think that’s what killed us.”

On how players like Serena Guthrie play with guts to the end
“That’s something we really love about her game – she ups the intensity and brings the whole team with her. You saw that in the New Zealand game, getting so wound up. We want to use that positive energy and go with her.”

On the responsibility of the whole team to protect the goal keeper
“To be honest, their vision into the circle was pretty good tonight, and the space always seemed to be there. We need to tighten up on through-court defense, and around the circle with arms over that feed.”

On whether a shooter may lack confidence when coming back from injury
“I don’t think there’s every going to be an issue with confidence with Jo Harten. You might find it with a regular shooter, but Jo’s the most confident girl in the world. I loved playing with her, I always know she can perform. She’s very classy, one of the best goal shooters in the world, the way she moves and reads the game.”

On what changes were asked for from the shooters in the second half
“We knew we had to change things up. Sometimes it is just better to stop and hold, and let the ball be played into space, which South Africa do really well. England shooters are a moving circle and you don’t see the hold as often as you could. We did start to bring that into our game.”

On her relationship with (former Diamonds player) Chelsea Pitman
“Oh, it’s so good, she’s such a nice girl on and off the court. Her power and strength are amazing. I’m really enjoying our combination at the centre pass – in all the camps in England we’ve been working on communication and setups in our head so we know what each other is doing. I’m glad it looks effortless, it felt quite good tonight. She’s an amazing girl and she’s been such a good addition to our group.”