The Vitality Roses triumphed in the test series against South Africa this weekend after two wins from three games in Cape Town.
After victories in the first two games, the SPAR Proteas responded in the final encounter between the two sides with a 54-48 win at the Bellville Velodrome.
Their improved performance meant the series would end positively for Dorette Badenhorst’s side after losing the opening two games 58-63 and 53-59 respectively.
The match saw plenty of positives for the Vitality Roses including a debut for Kate Shimmin, improving combinations across the court and ultimately seeing captain Natalie Haythornthwaite lift the trophy.
It also represented Jess Thirlby’s first series win as the head coach of the Vitality Roses since she was appointed in July.
“It’s an outstanding achievement by this team to come away from home with very little international experience. To have sealed the series in those opening two games in that fashion is an achievement that shouldn’t be underestimated,” said Thirlby.
“The most pleasing aspect was the improvements we made from game one to game two. I think the first game showed everyone back home the grit and passion that this group plays with, which got us over the line in amazing circumstances. We wanted an improved performance and be tactically smarter so I was most pleased with that.
“Finishing game three having played all 12 players was another objective of ours coming into the series so we should all be extremely proud. I didn’t anticipate being as successful as that so soon which is fantastic.”
South Africa’s win ensured that there would be no clean sweep for this young, exciting England team but there were still plenty of positives to take against a team that finished fourth at the Vitality Netball World Cup in the summer.
“Obviously, it would have been nice to get three wins from three but we just weren’t as composed in those critical moments as we had been in those first two matches. Had we done that, I think we could have come out on top.”
“We never underestimated South Africa going into game three despite the series having already been decided. I think you could tell the team were just as passionate but maybe were a bit fatigued towards the end of the game. You can’t underestimate the effort they put into sealing the series in those first two games.
“We can take huge confidence knowing that we’re meeting South Africa again so soon in January. We’re back in camp soon prepping for the Vitality Netball Nations Cup. I’m sure they’ll feel quite buoyant following that win. It’s a great experience to have so soon into the four-year cycle and now we’ve got a real measure of where we’re at internationally.”
Natalie Haythornthwaite captained the Vitality Roses out in South Africa and led by example on the court, winning an individual honour at the end of the final match thanks to her performances at wing attack.
“It’s been absolutely incredible experience at the start of our four-year cycle and I’m so proud that we got the series win. It wasn’t easy, the crowd was incredible and South Africa brought it to us every single game. We managed to dig deep and can return home happy,” she said.
“Whenever you go up against South Africa you expect a hard game. Both England and South Africa gave everything right until the final whistle co credit to both teams. I think it sets up a very exciting Vitality Netball Nations Cup in January.
“The support has 100 per cent been felt by the squad. We’ve seen the videos, the tweets, Instagram messages, everything. We’ve really felt the love out here and it’s made it feel like home away from home.”
With the tense three-match series comes to an end, South Africa and the Vitality Roses will face each other once again at the Vitality Netball Nations Cup in January. Tickets can be purchased for the series on home soil here.