Netball: Back to drawing board for flat Ferns (+ photos)

By Suzanne McFadden



After one of their flattest performances in memory, the Silver Ferns are more than aware they need to refill on fizz for tomorrow's quarter-final against South Africa.

It was hard to decipher where the Silver Ferns' touch rugby warm-up antics ended and the test match began against Botswana on centre court last night - as their final pool game turned into a monotonous fitness session.

Silver Ferns coach Ruth Aitken was not in the happiest of moods after the 76-20 win but doubted she would have to admonish her players for their uninspiring performance.

"They're disappointed and they beat themselves up - sometimes too much. I was just wanting them to play properly," she said.

Aitken knew the reward of reaching the finals end of the tournament would be enough motivation to lift her side for tomorrow night's clash with the South Africans, beaten 62-32 by an in-form England side last night.

There will be homework today. "On defence we have to attack that ball more often, and then on attack we have to use dodges - when we just ran we lost our structure. That's our challenge," Aitken said.

Ferns veteran midcourter Julie Seymour declared the team "pretty flat".

"It wasn't the game we wanted to play - it felt like we didn't have the flow we had in the first few days. We don't enjoy it so much when it's not like that."

After the whizz-bang of Tuesday's effort against Wales, it was like the Ferns had a slow leak in their car tyres overnight.

But if they could salvage something from the experience - their first against a Botswana side - it was getting 11 of the 12 players out on court.

Defender Leana de Bruin was sidelined with a knock to her calf - a training collision with Irene van Dyk in the morning - but Aitken was confident she would be fine for today's training run.

Shooter Maria Tutaia got some confidence-building court time, converting 19 of 21 shots at goal attack over three quarters; Joline Henry played a solid 60 minutes in both wing and goal defence.

While the players returned to their hotel, Aitken and assistant coach Leigh Gibbs blended into the crowd to watch South Africa ebb and flow against the English.

"We don't know a lot about South Africa," Gibbs admitted. "We know they came in as the second ranked African nation but they're now playing above that.

"We've got a lot of respect for South Africa - we know the passion they bring to netball, especially world champs, and it will lift their performance against us."

The Ferns will use their rest day today to "recharge their batteries" with a training run and video analysis of the Proteas.

England, happy with the way they accelerated from the Proteas who clawed back to within five goals in the second quarter, will meet Malawi in their quarterfinal.

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