Battle lines drawn for netball clashes

The only certainty about the 2017 Brutal Fruit Netball Premier league is that a new champion will be crowned.

The semi-finals and finals will take place this coming weekend and reigning champions, the Crinums from the Free State who captured the coveted BFN netball title for three consecutive years, have not made the play-offs. So a brand new titleholder will emerge on Sunday.

On June 10 and 11 four teams will battle it out for the winner’s trophy and the big prize, to play in New Zealand’s club championship next month.

The four remaining teams – the Gauteng North Jaguars, North West Flames, Gauteng Golden Fireballs and the Western Cape Southern Stings – will play in the semi-finals at Bloemfontein’s Mangaung Indoor Sports Centre. The finals will take place on Sunday.

The first semi-final match, taking place on Saturday at 4pm, will see the mighty Jaguars take on the Stings. The fixture marks the third consecutive semi-final between the two teams, with the Jaguars being victors in all three. In fact, the Jaguars have a 100 per cent winning record in semi-finals.

The previous encounter between the Jaguars and Stings in round four at Bellville concluded with a 46-42 victory for the Jaguars and was a cracker of a game, a definite top three match of the round robin stage.

The Stings have four Proteas, namely Juline Rossouw, Phumza Maweni, Rochelle Loubser and Vanes-Mari du Toit, who all have important roles to play in the team. Head coach Annelie Lucas has a very versatile team and plenty of options at her disposal. Goal shooter Jaumbuaije Zauana has been a revelation with an average of 84 per cent at goal attempts.

ALL TO PLAY FOR: The last four teams to battle it out. Vice-captains and captains are:
Simphiwe Sithebe, Zanne Marie Pienaar of Gauteng Golden Fireballs, Rochelle Loubster of Southern Stings, Brutal Fruit and Reeds Marketing Manager – Kudzi Mathabire, Netball South Africa President – Mimi Mthethwa- Zulu, Shadinne van der Merwe, Chante Bester and Tshina Mdau of Gauteng Jaguars.

The second semi-final will see the Flames square off with the Fireballs on Saturday at 6pm. This will be the first time these two teams square off in a play-off match. The Flames have been in all three previous semi-final rounds, losing all three.

Dorette Badenhorst, coach of the Flames, will be desperate to bring an end to this.

The likes of Ané Botha (wing attack), Nadia Uys Pienaar (centre) and Zanele Vimbela (goal keeper) have helped create an average of 80 goal attempts per match for their shooters, of which they converted an average of 78 per cent. Goal shooter Deancke Rohde has been on top form, scoring 255 from 303 attempts for an average of 84 per cent.

In five of the previous six encounters between the Flames and Fireballs a goal shooter/goal attack received the player of the match award. In the corresponding fixture of round two, red-hot goal attack Renske Stoltz walked away with the coveted Player Of The Match prize.

She will again be of great significance for the Flames to win the match. Stoltz, with her 225 from 286 attempts, has built an impressive partnership with her wing attack, Kgomotso Itlhabanyeng, and centre, Romé Dreyer.

Defenders Monique Reyneke and Simoné Rabie, who were both selected for the Baby Proteas for next month’s Junior World Cup along with goalkeeper Zandré Erasmus, have been in very good form; they will have to be at their optimal best to claim the victory.

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Annette van Schalkwyk

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