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Seven VNSL players feature as Vitality Roses beat South Africa

Seven Vitality Netball Superleague players took to the court as the Vitality Roses secured a 58-63 victory against the South Africa SPAR Proteas in Cape Town in a dramatic extra-time encounter.

It was the first time the two sides had gone head-to-head since the Vitality Netball World Cup earlier this year in which England beat the SPAR Proteas to take the bronze medal.

Fresh off the back of being crowned Africa Netball Cup champions, South Africa came out with purpose determined to make their mark in front of their home crowd but it was former Team Bath Director of Netball Jess Thirlby’s team who took the series opener.

Wasp Netball’s Jade Clarke took the first centre pass of the game and a smooth transition to the shooting circle saw Manchester Thunder shooter Eleanor Cardwell net the first goal of the series. Lenize Potgieter followed suit by making it 1-1 in the first minute of the game.

The SPAR Proteas continued to apply strong defensive pressure but Cardwell and Kadeen Corbin, who plies her trade for Saracens Mavericks, kept their cool and managed to take advantage of some strong feeds from captain Natalie Haythornthwaite and Clarke.

A roaring crowd at the Bellville Velodrome in Cape Town saw both sides go almost goal for goal for the majority of the first quarter, but when the first whistle blew it was England ahead with the finest of margins at just 12-15.

South Africa brought Khanyisa Chawane on at wing defence at the start of the second quarter and the new Team Bath Netball signing is sure to have excited fans with the 2020 season on the horizon.

The tempo remained high throughout the second quarter, with Cardwell on hand to increase England’s lead within the first five minutes by another three goals.

However, the SPAR Proteas stayed hot on England’s heels and despite some smooth intercepts from Wasps Netball defender Fran Williams and her Roses teammate Stacey Francis, South Africa’s Potgieter and Renske Stoltz forced the gap to close.

Even though it looked like South Africa would regain the lead on a number of occasions, England fearlessly fought for control and secured a 23-28 lead at half time.

Vitality Roses Head Coach Thirlby decided to mix things up at the start of the second half with Manchester Thunder’s Laura Malcolm coming on as WA and Haythornthwaite moving to GA in place of Corbin.

South Africa, who came back out on court without their captain Bongi Msomi, appeared energised, turning over a number of balls at the start of the quarter.

After just five minutes of the second half South Africa came back level with the Roses, much to the delight of a sold-out crowd over in Cape Town, but England remained patient and ensured Cardwell had ample opportunity to stay toe to toe with them.

It was another nail-biting quarter and it went right down to the wire but South Africa managed to nudge ahead, with the score set at 40-39 to the SPAR Proteas at the end of the third quarter.

There was just one change for the Vitality Roses when they stepped back out on court, with Clarke and Loughborough Lightning captain Natalie Panagarry exchanging bibs.

England showed their ability to remain consistent and to perform under pressure by adding a few more all-important goals to their tally in quick succession, often thanks to some strong feeds from Malcolm.

It was hard to call the outcome of the game with both sides taking the lead numerous times, which soon saw the final whistle blew at 51-51 meaning the first test went to extra time (two seven-minute halves).

The Roses took an early advantage in the first half of extra time, leading 56-57.

South Africa then brought Msomi back into the mix in an attempt to reclaim control in the last seven minutes of on-court action, but Cardwell remained on point and helped England produce their first win of the series. The score at the final whistle was 58-63 to the Vitality Roses.

Shadine Van Der Merwe, who played for Surrey Storm during the 2019 season, was named Player of the Match.

After a tightly contested affair, these VNSL stars will get another chance to take to the court on Saturday 30th November at 13:00 for the second round of the three-match test series.

This highly anticipated series also features VNSL players Razia Quashie (Saracens Mavericks), George Fisher (Saracens Mavericks), Sophie Drakeford-Lewis (Team Bath), and South Africa’s Zanele Vimbela (Strathclyde Sirens) and Sigi Burger (London Pulse).

When the tense three-match series comes to an end, fans can look forward to seeing their favourite stars in their club colours when the 2020 VNSL season begins on 22 February at the Season Opener at Arena Birmingham. Tickets are still available to purchase via the England Netball website.

To stay up to date with the Vitality Netball Superleague, including player movements, tickets and the latest news make sure you sign up to the Vitality Netball Superleague mailing list, you can sign up here.

Vitality Roses starting seven: (GS) Eleanor Cardwell, (GA) Kadeen Corbin, (WA) Natalie Haythornthwaite, (C) Jade Clarke, (WD) Natalie Panagarry, (GD) Fran Williams, (GK) Stacey Francis.

SPAR Proteas starting seven: (GS) Lenize Potgieter, (GA), Renske Stoltz, (WA) Bongi Msomi, (C) Rome Dreyer, (WD) Monique Reyneke, (GD) Shadine Van Der Merwe, (GK) Phumza Maweni.

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