Cape Town — Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB) roared a championship challenge after wrapping up the group phase of the Spar National Netball Championships with a 46-42 win over Eastern Province neighbours Buffalo City at the DF Academy, in Bellville, on Thursday.
The win will move NMB into second place on the A Section log. It secures a semi-final berth on Friday when they are likely to play Cape Town A. The latter finished the group phase on a high, with a well-taken 52-42 win over Johannesburg A, who look set to finish in 4th place in the A Section standings.
The one remaining A Section match, between hitherto unbeaten Cape Winelands A and eThekwini, was played late on Thursday evening.
Former South African netball player and MNB coach Lana Krige said she was wary about the derby against Buffalo City.
"This was one game I feared for because the players know each other well," said Krige. "Easter Cape netball runs on passion, and it flows strongly. The players raised their game, and City did that very well.
"We had a few different options attacking-wise, but some (players) were sent on too late. As a result, they didn't get a feel for the game. It's a technical lesson that we'll keep in the back pocket, and draw on it when necessary in the future."
Both NMB and City were fairly subdued in the opening quarter, but things livened up considerably in the next. City were particularly prolific and bagged 15 goals to race ahead 29-15 after two quarters.
Both teams eased up somewhat in the third and then made a final push at the end when each scored 13 goals to wrap up the eventual 45-34 scoreline in favour of NMB.
The NMB coach Zandile Njeza said the team was still trying to recover from Wednesday's defeat which she said had been particularly hard-hitting.
"They gave it away (the match on Wednesday) when it was a must-win match for us," said Njeza. "They were fatigued and not used to playing in this (hot) weather. It impacted us, but we needed to come back stronger today and forget about yesterday.
"The now is important, and they must forget about yesterday.
"My motivation for the players was to tell them to enjoy the match. This tournament is a time to showcase their talent.
"In the end, they must make sure we win. Winning is a bonus, and it is something every coach will focus on and aim for.
"If you lose, it must not be by a big margin. If you lose by two or three (goals) it is the only number that is acceptable."