Gallant Proteas fall to a resilient Australia

Lenize Potgieter of the Proteas in action against Australia in the semi- final of the Netball World Cup in Liverpool.
Lenize Potgieter of the Proteas in action against Australia in the semi- final of the Netball World Cup in Liverpool.
Image: Gallo Images/Reg Caldecott

Netball's Proteas came agonisingly close to causing a major upset at the World Cup as they narrowly lost 55-53 to defending champions Australia in their high-intensity semifinal played at the M&S Arena in Liverpool , England, yesterday.

South Africa gave a commendable account of themselves against the more fancied Australian Diamonds. They will now have to play the loser of the other semifinal between England and New Zealand, in today's bronze-medal match .

The 12 Proteas players missed out on a possible massive pay day as they were promised bonuses of R1m each if they went all the way to win the tournament or R500,000 for finishing second by domestic league sponsors Telkom.

On the positive side, they will share R500,000 from team sponsors Spar if they win the bronze medal today.

Against Australia the gallant Proteas were not disgraced at all as they played without fear to withstand relentless pressure from the No 1 ranked Aussies and ultimately lost by only two goals.

After the first quarter, Australia led by a narrow four goals (14-10) as the Proteas refused to be intimidated.

The defending champions, who enjoyed a considerable amount of support from the stands, found their feet in the second quarter as they tried hard to take the game by the scruff of the neck.

By halftime, Australia had increased their lead considerably to 31-23 and that meant the South Africans had a mountain to climb if they wanted to possibly cause the biggest shock of the tournament.

The Proteas mounted a comeback and they were only four goals behind the Aussies in the third quarter, and could have taken the lead but were let down by their poor finishing as they missed a number of scoring chances.

SA came out fighting in the last quarter but Australia held on to their lead, eventually booking a place in the final.

Australia went into this semifinal with a 100% record from the preliminary rounds - they defeated Northern Ireland, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Barbados, Malawi and bitter rivals New Zealand.

On the other hand, the Proteas were impressive in their victories over Trinidad & Tobago, Fiji, Jamaica, Scotland and Uganda before they lost to tournament hosts England.

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