Liam Napier in London
Silver Ferns captain Laura Langman believes her side's extra-time victory over South Africa will serve as a valuable lesson for July's World Cup but admits standards need to lift before that pinnacle event.
The Ferns emerged 62-60 victors yesterday to claim one win from three in the northern Quad Series after an extra-time period that looked as though it could go on forever in London.
"It could actually, which probably would have been an event organising nightmare," Langman said after the Ferns finally nabbed the necessary two-goal buffer required to end the match. "It was good to be put in that situation. You can't simulate that stuff in training with the pressure, the noise, so what great preparation. You want to experience as many what ifs as you can."
The Ferns started strongly to score the first eight goals until their customary collapse hit and they lost their way in the second quarter.
It didn't help they started that quarter with six players after Ameliaranne Ekenasio's bleeding nose left them scrambling to unexpectedly throw Maia Wilson in the deep end.
Under pressure in a difficult situation, Wilson made several errors before Ekenasio returned to steady the attacking end again.
After some erratic moments where they lacked patience, the Ferns eventually regrouped and fought back but, by the finish, the match could easily have gone either way.
In the end, the Ferns were good enough to hold their composure just that bit longer than South Africa.
Results alone do not suggest major improvement but Langman is adamant the Ferns are progressing.
"We're definitely a different team than what we were the southern half of the Quad Series.
"We show moments of brilliance, and then I don't know whether you want to call it maturity or game smarts, we fall down. But these last two games, we've shown we can hold and we can go toe-to-toe, and when we need to, we can break through.
"We need to find that something earlier but there is promising stuff in a very short space of time."
Langman hopes the 25 players used by Ferns coach Noeline Taurua, and others contesting the 12 spots for the Liverpool World Cup, will now drive further improvement.
"That's probably one remarkable difference in the environment to date is we do have that internal competition.
"[Yesterday] the starting seven were given the task to try embed what we could so we could give opportunities to others, and we didn't do that, so that's disappointing, but also it's nice to see the seven back up and push through.
"I'm liking what I'm seeing. We have got to be bigger, better, stronger, smarter come July, so we've got some work to do.
"Our test is now what we learn in this Quad Series, we need to take forward. This is now our starting point. We can't afford to drop back to where we were and forget all this. The onus is on us players to stay connected and retain standards and expectations that are in the Ferns environment."