IN a great display of international netball, the Spar Proteas went head to head with netball powerhouse England last night.
Despite South Africa putting in a strong effort, and leading in the early stages of the game, England proved too strong for them and ended the game with 49 goals to 39.
The Proteas took to the court as a confident unit, and the first 15 minutes of the game were fast, fiery and intense.
South Africa's attack looked smooth and controlled as the ball was driven up to goal shooter Chrisna Bootha. When the Proteas were in the lead it was evident they were more confident in the goal circle as their play was riskier, and it worked for them. England cranked up the power towards the end of the 15 minutes and ended the first quarter with a 13-12 lead.
It was the second quarter that let the Proteas down, as the match got a bit scrappy from both sides. Both teams made a few unforced errors and the South African shooters missed a number of shots at goal, which gave England the gap to run away with the lead.
South Africa's defence combination of Adele Niemand, Karla Mostert and Precious Mthembu was as strong as ever, but the attack lacked accuracy in driving the ball into the goal circle and completing the shot. England led 25-18 at half time.
England were first to score off their centre in the third quarter and used their lead to run ahead.
Eboni Beckford-Chambers had a brilliant game, and put a lot of pressure on the South African attack. Later in that quarter the Proteas came back fighting and from being 10 goals down, managed to claw their way back to a three-goal difference.
Being only three goals down at the start of the final quarter should have given South Africa the opportunity they needed, but England were just too strong. England coach Ana Mayes made a number of changes to her team, which included moving Jade Clarke from wing defence to centre. Clarke contributed to England's strong attack, and was named player of the match.
"I am obviously disappointed," Proteas coach Elize Kotze said after the game. "No one likes losing ... but we are improving each time, and are not down and out. Tomorrow we will ... refocus."
Mayes said it had been a competitive game.
England take on Trinidad and Tobago today at 5.30pm. The match will be broadcast live on SuperSport channel 229.