Silver Ferns 62 South Africa 60 (after extra-time)
By Liam Napier in London
They did it the hard way but the Silver Ferns eventually delivered clinical composure to down South Africa in extra time of their final Quad Series match.
Sixty minutes was not nearly enough to separate the teams in dramatic scenes at London's sold out Copper Box Arena.
There were so many twists and turns it is hard to know where to begin.
With seconds remaining in regular time, Ferns shooter Ameliaranne Ekenasio hit the long shot tie the game and force extra time.
Down by two in the second seven-minute period of extra time, the Ferns somehow clawed their way back; Maria Folau dropping a long bomb to bring her side level and force the match to continue until one side established a two-goal lead.
With both teams out on their feet, finally the Ferns found a break and put the match to bed and take extra time 17-15.
South Africa's only previous victory in 33 attempts against New Zealand came at the 1995 World Cup in Birmingham. Ironically, Ferns coaches Noeline Taurua and Debbie Fuller featured that day.
One day after they shocked hosts England, South Africa threatened to repeat those efforts on New Zealand.
But in a much-needed confidence boost after successive losses to England and Australia, Taurua's side refused to crumble.
Much work remains with the World Cup in Liverpool only six months away but one win is certainly better than none.
This time, the Ferns started with such promise.
Rectifying their tendency to start slowly, they burst out of the blocks to score the first eight goals and justify Taurua's ploy for continuity in maintaining the starting seven which combined well for three quarters of yesterday's loss to Australia.
Laura Langman dominated the middle, and Karin Burger again impressed at wing defence; her tall, strong presence nabbing three intercepts in the first quarter and one crucial tip in the final period with South Africa up by one.
Burger is not the finished product but if there is one bright spark to come from this event it is her rapid emergence.
In those early stages the Ferns were in total control. Sensing the game slipping away, Norma Plummer pushed Lenize Potgieter from goal attack back to her more accustomed goal shoot role – the switch allowing South Africa to quickly adjust and find their feet.
Taking a five goal buffer into the first break, the Ferns started the second quarter in a shambolic state. Just as Ekenasio was due to return to court she suffered a bleeding nose. The confusion saw the Ferns start with six players, eventually injecting Maia Wilson at goal shoot and moving Maria Folau to goal attack.
Wilson, in her first appearance of the tournament, struggled to shake the nerves. She hit 5/6 but two fumbles were turned over and she also gave away one penalty.
The Ekenasio disruption, combined with too many erratic moments from the Ferns on attack with ball thrown away or squandered, gave South Africa regular chances to chip away at the lead.
They did just that, taking the second quarter 11-8 and heading to half time two points adrift.
Once again, problematic inconsistency plagued the Ferns.
Ekenasio returned after the interval. By that stage, though, South Africa found their tempo and applied further pressure to take the third quarter by two goals and draw level for the final turn.
South Africa nailed their centre pass and, so, all the pressure fell on the Ferns to chase the game from then on.
This time they delivered.