Though they admitted they would need to tighten their game in some areas, the Proteas were celebrating a rare victory over Jamaica on Sunday night, with the national side finishing top of their group in the first round of the Netball World Cup in Liverpool.
Ranked three places below Jamaica – the No 2 side in the world – South Africa displayed early intent and stunned their opponents from the first whistle.
Countering the size and strength of the Sunshine Girls by controlling the game with their speed, the Proteas raced to a 16-9 lead at the end of the first quarter and they held a 32-21 advantage at the half-time break.
The Jamaicans fought back, however, and they were just four points behind (42-38) at the start of the fourth quarter.
Placing the Proteas under tremendous pressure, they drew level at 44-44 with nine minutes left in the match, but the SA team held their nerve to draw clear again at the death, snatching a narrow 55-52 win.
It was the Proteas’ first victory in seven years against the Sunshine Girls.
“They can be their own worst enemies, but I’m so proud of the way the players came through,” said Proteas coach Norma Plummer.
“We’ve worked very hard on the team’s self belief.”
Plummer admitted, however, there were areas which required attention if they were to challenge for a medal later in the tournament, and goal defence Karla Pretorius agreed that there was no time for complacency after Jamaica had given them a scare by closing a significant gap in the final quarter.
Pretorius, however, felt they were starting to show their real potential.
“It was a tough battle but it was a great opportunity for us,” said Pretorius, who was named Player of the Match.
“In the past we’ve let big games slip away, and there are a few areas where we need to be more consistent, but we’re very happy with our performance.”
Having gone unbeaten in round one, the Proteas were set to face Scotland on Monday in their first clash of the second round of group matches.