In the first match of the day, the World Champion Silver Ferns lined up against world number five SPAR Proteas. With both teams having lost to the Vitality Roses and Origin Diamonds over the previous two days, all eyes were on both nations to see what changes would be made for this third match.
SPAR Proteas Head Coach Dorette Badenhorst stuck with her Vitality Netball Superleague stars at either end of the court, with Ine Mari Venter again partnering Lefebre Rademan in the shooting end and new VNSL signings Zanele Vimbela and Phumza Maweni teaming up in the defensive circle. Izette Griesel started at WA alongside Monique Reyneke at WD, with captain Bongiwe Msomi again lining up at C.
On the away bench, Dame Noeline Taurua looked to a new shooting combination with youngster Grace Nweke taking the GS bib and Maia Wilson moving out to GA. Captain Gina Crampton started at WA alongside Shannon Saunders at C, with the defensive backline made up of Karin Burger at WD, Phoenix Karaka at GD and Sulu Fitzpatrick at GK.
Both sides dialled up the defensive pressure early on, with new Team Bath signing Maweni and Loughborough Lightning signing Vimbela creating issues for Wilson and Nweke, while Griesel took a heavy challenge from Burger in the midcourt. The Ferns began to apply their trademark zone and forced the Proteas into cross-court passes, but made uncharacteristic errors themselves in their attacking end due to the pressure from the team in white.
After the Ferns went three up after seven minutes of play, Badenhorst made an early change, with Sigu Burger taking the court at GS and Venter moving out to GA. The Proteas found difficulty getting the ball to circle edge, with Msomi forced to use the full width of the court to avoid the Ferns zone, and despite the best efforts of Maweni and Vimbela the scoreline extended to 15-9 by the end of the first quarter.
With Nicola Smith replacing Vimbela for the Proteas, Maweni continued to exert her influence, forcing Wilson into a held ball and a missed shot in quick succession. Karaka quickly replied at the other end, picking off a cross-court ball and returning possession to the Ferns.
Despite holding the lead, the World Champions were finding it difficult to bring the ball through court thanks to the Proteas dictating them into uncomfortable positions and Taurua took the opportunity to switch Tiana Metuarau on for Wilson in the shooting circle. Undeterred by the pressure of the Proteas, Metuarau took strong drives through the middle and let the ball go quickly to her teammates, ensuring the Ferns attack flowed more freely; her 100% shooting stats also ensured the Ferns lead was extended to 31-19 by the end of the first half.
At the start of the second half, Taurua switched up her mid-court combination, with Saunders moving to WA and Reuleu-Buchanan taking the court at C, while for the Proteas Tshina Mdau ran on at WD. Msomi continued to show her intelligence at C breaking through the Ferns zone defence and putting calm feeds into the circle, while Mdau took the quarterback role, building the attack from the back.
For the Ferns, meanwhile, it was all about Fitzpatrick as the keeper showed supreme elevation to pick off any lifted balls in and around the Proteas circle, thanks to the efforts of Burger and Reuleu-Buchanan forcing errant passes out the front. With three minutes to go, Badenhorst gave Rademan the nod to return to the court and Venter moved back to GS. The Celtic Dragons GA brought a welcome injection of speed for the Proteas and linked with Msomi to quickly get herself back on the scoreboard, bringing the score to 43-27 after the end of the third quarter.
Quarter four saw Wilson return to the GS position, with the defensive effort of the Proteas paying dividends again, forcing a held ball in the Ferns circle and allowing South Africa to put two on the scoreboard in quick succession. Winders returned to court as WD, combining with her teammates to disrupt the Proteas centre pass and create turnovers for Karaka and Fitzpatrick at the back.
The Proteas continued to show their class, however, as Reyneke as WD caused huge headaches for the attack end and tested the Ferns patience with playing the ball back to the line. With the game going into the closing minutes, neither team let up the pace; both sides finding another gear to put goals on the board and finishing 54-43 to the Silver Ferns.
Phoenix Karaka was awarded Player of the Match with seven turnovers to her name.