DESPITE dropping the final game of a three-game test series, England took out the win 2-1 against South Africa. It was a strong showing from the undermanned Roses side that was missing the likes of key players Serena Guthrie, Geva Mentor and Jo Harten instead relying heavily on their up and coming talent to carry the load which they did in style. South Africa on the other hand continued to toy with their line-up and sorely missed the defensive prowess of Karla Pretorius.
Game 1: South Africa (58) defeated by England (63):
With 44 seconds left, it looked like England had landed the final blow establishing a one-goal lead before South Africa answered to send the game into overtime where the Roses showed their class and composure to run out five-goal victors. It was a frantic start for both sides with neither able to settle and convert until South Africa skipped out to a narrow two-goal lead. But England were not to be outdone racing away in the second quarter opening up a five-goal lead with youngster Eleanor Caldwell leading the charge in the goal circle thanks to her height, dominant positioning and control. The lead ebbed and flowed throughout the match with both sides relying on their experienced players to guide the way with South Africans Renske Stoltz and Bongi Msomi putting in the hard yards early while Stacey Francis plied her trade down back for England. New coach Dorette Badenhorst was not afraid to pull the trigger and make the necessary changes with Lefebre Rademan making her way off the bench and having an impact with her silky movement and accuracy. In the absence of Harten, Helen Houbsy, Rachel Dunn and co Nat Haythornthwaite slotted into the goal attack position in the latter half with ease showing she is not afraid to take the shot and can pose a threat under the post. England was tidier with ball in hand only notching up 17 turnovers compared to their opponents who amassed 22 prior to extra time but most importantly proved that patience was key working the ball around and using the angles to open up the space.
Game 2: South Africa (53) defeated by England (59):
The Roses did not muck around quickly asserting themselves on their South African counterparts to get their second win on the board and secure the series. The Proteas opted for a different look line-up in the midcourt with Izette Griesel pushing into centre and Khanyisa Chawane pulling on the wing defence bib to try and quell the influence of Haythornthwaite. Jade Clarke used every inch of her experience to outrun and out hustle fellow centre, Griesel while the quick transition down the court seemed to really stretch the South African defence. England coach, Jess Thirlby showed faith in her youth with George Fisher causing headaches in the final quarter to spur her side onto victory and prove to be the difference. The addition of Sigi Burger in the second quarter paid dividends for South Africa with the tall shooter making the most of her height and using her footwork to edge closer the post and draw back the margin unfazed by the body on body pressure of Razia Quashie. Shooting percentage did not seem to be an issue for either side sitting at 91 and 97 per cent respectively at half-time but as the game went on the intensity increased from both sides. Laura Malcolm was exciting in wing defence using her speed and drive to help bring the ball down the court while also shutting down her opponent. But it was a final quarter blitz from England that earnt them the win with Fran Williams re-entering the game and upping the ante along with Nat Panagarry bringing a burst of speed and pressure to nullify their opposition attack.
Game 3: South Africa (54) defeated England (48):
Back on home soil, the SPAR Proteas overran the Roses in a convincing performance filled with impressive individual performances. They skipped out to an early lead and did not look back despite a third quarter fightback from the world number three. South Africa trialled a new combo in the goal circle with Lenize Potgieter pushed out to goal attack and Ine-Mari Venter donning the goal shooter bib with the two causing all sorts of headaches for Francis and Aussie debutant Kate Shimmin. The two worked effortlessly together rotating with ease and attacking the post with their accuracy. Up the other end Phumza Maweni put on a masterclass imposing herself on the contest and forcing 27 turnovers to highlight just how much pressure she can apply and prove she does not need partner in crime Karla Pretorius to perform on the big stage. Zanele Vimbela made her way onto the court for the first time in the series and made a real impact in goal defence with the lanky defender displaying her three-foot marking while Shadine van Der Merwe played out the match in wing defence. Shimmin used her aerial ability to full advantage but struggled to combat the explosiveness of Potgieter and Venter who were undeniable under the post. Fisher proved to be the go to girl for England sighting her from distance and delivering time and time again. Youngster, Sophie Drakeford-Lewis had moments of magic but struggled to stay a threat replaced by the experienced Kadeen Corbin who took control in the goal circle with her strong drives, commanding presence and accuracy to post. Rome Dreyer was electric through the midcourt credit to her cuts and drives, quick hands on the circle edge and vision into the circle.