Despite producing another gutsy performance, South Africa were handed a 62-46 defeat by world champions Australia in the final match of the third leg of the Quad Series netball competition in Durban on Tuesday night.
The 16-point gap was the closest ever margin of defeat between the Diamonds, a fully professional team, and the Proteas, a fully amateur side.
“We made a lot of mistakes and we were pretty green on a few things, but we were in there,” said SA head coach Norma Plummer.
“We need to be consistent, and there’s still a lot of work to do, but I’m quietly pleased.”
The Australians romped to a 5-0 lead after four minutes, taking advantage of a sloppy start by the hosts, before the South Africans started to hit back.
Vanes-Mari du Toit, making a comeback to the national team at goal attack after a lengthy layoff, struggled against the Australian defence and the home side were trailing 17-9 at the end of the first quarter.
After she was replaced, in-form Lindie Lombard was able to keep the Diamonds on their toes, but while the South Africans put up a fight, they slipped further behind as Australia took a 31-20 advantage into the half-time break.
Gradually taking control, the Diamonds drew clear in the last two quarters to earn a comfortable victory, extending their lead at the top of the series standings.
South Africa remained without a win after five matches in the inaugural four-nation campaign, with one fixture left against New Zealand in England on Sunday.