Netball: Big two flex muscles

By Dana Johannsen

New Zealand and Australia show they're well ahead of their Quad Series rivals.

Laura Langman with South African Centre Bongiwe Msomi at last night's International Quad Series game - New Zealand v South Africa. Photo / Reed Sarah
Laura Langman with South African Centre Bongiwe Msomi at last night's International Quad Series game - New Zealand v South Africa. Photo / Reed Sarah

Silver Ferns 63
South Africa 27

Australia 64
England 40

World netball's duopoly was once again laid bare last night, with New Zealand and Australia recording massive wins over their lower-ranked opponents in the opening matches of the Quad Series.

Despite an untidy and at times lacklustre performance from the Silver Ferns, Waimarama Taumaunu's side still easily outclassed the South Africa in Adelaide, recording a 36-goal win over the Proteas. Taumaunu took the opportunity to trial new combinations in each area of the court, giving 11 of her 12-strong squad a run - including midcourt bolter Bailey Mes, who made her test debut.

Australia had an equally dominant 24-goal win over England, squashing any hope that the English might be good for an upset to spice the series up.

Ferns' vice-captain Laura Langman said while her side were convincing winners, there was still plenty of things they need to brush up on before they take on England on Wednesday night.

"We did some good stuff, it might have been good to string a few more things together, but in saying that we did trial quite a few combinations so I think we have to be happy with that."

The four nations tournament was always going to be a harsh learning environment for South Africa, but coach Elize Kotze believes if her side are to improve on their world ranking of sixth, they need more regular exposure against the top tier nations.

They produced a couple of nice patches of play, but on the strength of last night's performance it is going to be a long three weeks for the Proteas, who face Australia next up in Newcastle.

After serving her apprenticeship on the bench during the recent Constellation Cup series, Mes finally got her opportunity starting at wing attack. She was a shock selection in the national team having played just one quarter of ANZ Championship netball this season.

Against the spirited, but out of their depth, South African defence, it was difficult to gauge the strength of Mes' performance in her 30 minutes on court. She did not do too much wrong, nor did she do anything spectacular.

With Taumaunu wanting to test new options in the midcourt, Mes was replaced at halftime by Laura Langman, who moved in to wing attack to make room for converted defender Kayla Cullen at centre.

Silver Ferns captain Casey Williams also made an appearance at halftime, making her international return after a 15-month lay-off with ankle, and more recently, knee problems.

After a slow start, it did not take long before she was back to her ball-snaffling best, picking up four intercepts and one deflection in her 30 minutes on court.

But it was goal keep Katrina Grant that was the real defensive star last night, pulling in nine intercepts - four of those in the opening 15 minutes - and making a general menace of herself.

Australia had a healthy 64-40 win over England.

Already without star defenders Geva Mentor and Sonia Mkoloma along with key midcourter Jade Clarke for the tour, England suffered a further setback with Pamela Cookey and Ama Agbeze injured inside the opening 10 minutes.


Match stats

(Q1 - 14-9, Q2 - 14-5, Q3 - 19-7, Q4 - 16-6)

Shooting

New Zealand

Cathrine Latu 18/20

Maria Tutaia 10/15

Irene van Dyk 28/28

Anna Thompson 7/13

South Africa

Anna Christina Bootha 19/24

Maryka Holtzhausen 4/5

Melissa Myburgh 4/5

- NZ Herald

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