Jess Thirlby

The Vitality Roses finished their first game of a three-match test series against South Africa with a 58-63 win in Cape Town.

It was a tightly contested affair with both sides going goal for goal for much of the game and taking turns in the lead.

Fans were on the edge of their seats, but it was Head Coach Jess Thirlby’s side that came out on top.

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She said: “There’s really not much between these sides, the margins as you saw were so small and we’re not naïve to think there’s not parts of that game that we need to do better at tomorrow. However that’s the whole point of being here isn’t it, to make sure we build on that.

“To come through it with a win is great but I want to focus on the process. I felt we were a little bit naïve in attack at times. I thought South Africa’s circle defence, particularly Shadine [Van Der Merwe] and Phumza [Maweni] did a fantastic job and I think we can be more effective against that tomorrow.”

When the final whistle was blown after a dramatic last quarter, both teams were tied at 51-51, which meant the first test went to extra time (two seven-minute halves).

Jess added: “Credit to them, they really put us under pressure, they made us work really hard but I was really pleased to see the team try and work through that at key times. I was really pleased we took the lead at key times but not so much with letting South Africa back in.

“Attacking wise it’s really hard to take ball off Lenize [Potgieter] but I was really pleased with how our defence grew with the game. We know it’s hard to win much ball against her but the few that you do you have to turn into a goal.

“Overall there’s lots to work on but it was a true test of character. I couldn’t be prouder of how the girls fought in the extra-time period.”

The Vitality Roses showed their ability to remain composed under pressure on numerous occasions throughout the game, which resulted in them securing the first win of the series.

Captain Natalie Haythornthwaite said: “We got a win in extra time, who’d have thought the first game of the test series would go into extra time? But I think it shows our character and the spirit of the girls to pull out that win and get over the line.

“Credit to South Africa, they were incredible and they did not stop until the last minute, which just shows how good this sport is and how lucky we are to play it, plus how competitive the game of netball is.”

After a tense first game, the Vitality Roses will face South Africa again on Saturday 30th November at 1pm for the second round of the three-match test series.

Haythornthwaite added: “I think some workings for us going into tomorrow’s game is to focus on keeping that lead. I think we went up by five goals twice in that game, so we’ll be looking to hold onto that lead rather than letting the SPAR Proteas back in.”


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