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Netballers win twice to edge closer to Region 5 gold

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By Mark Etheridge
in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

On a day when more medals were supposed to roll in for Team South Africa at the African Region 5 Games here, the only thing that rolled in were some massive thunderstorms.
But the netball girls breezed ever closer to a medal as they picked up two wins at the White City Stadium venue, adjacent to the athletics track.
First they swept past Swaziland to the tune of 79-15 and then beat main medal rivals Zimbabwe 40-32 after the cloudburst than lasted hours had come and gone.
The girls were consistency personified against Swaziland, scoring 19 points in the first quarter, 19 in the second, 18 in the third and 23 in the final quarter.
Those two wins added to their opening game victory against Botswana two days previously. Said coach Jenny van Dyk afterwards: ‘This was a much better performance with better combinations.
‘This is a bunch of new girls and the basic combinations still need to settle in, especially in the circle where we need to find a bit more rhythm.
‘I told the girls that they are the future of SA netball and I must admit I’ve been surprised by a few of the girls here.’
On playing three matches in just over 24 hours (they play Namibia on Wednesday morning) Van Dyk welcomed the thought.
‘These girls all come from good systems so while three games may be tough it just helps us prepare for future challenges and we’ll rotate the bench as well.’
Indeed, even though the South Africans brushed aside Swaziland there were still some antsy moments on the bench. Quite literally as the impending thunderstorm saw an outpouring of giant black ants that started invading the SA bunch and local volunteers had to do some nifty sweeping up to clear the threat.
Jessica Choga then watched the later game where SA faced stiff competition from a competitive host team but led throughout.
The hosts had huge support from the fans but that didn’t hinder Team SA’s progress.
Despite the rain delay and playing on a sodden court,  SA proved that the sky is the limit. Said coach Van Dyk: ‘A tough game, very stiff competition – there are stages were we could have played better and didn’t. But overall it was a good match and we’ll ensure we pull up our socks to win the next match.
Back the athletics and Etheridge writes that the rain played havoc with the day’s activities. The track was virtually under water and large pools of water were evident on the newly laid infield.
The women’s javelin and long jump finals were supposed to take place early afternoon but were called off after a few warm-up attempts in the long jump and javelin as lightning bolts raced across the sky. They have now been rescheduled to Wednesday some time.
SA have two entrants in the long jump – Jodee Johannes and Nienka du Toit and one in the javelin, Sané van Zyl.
Only one track final went ahead and Nohlanhla Dlamini took sixth spot in the 3000m event, the Gauteng athlete losing touch with the leaders soon after the first lap.
In the visually impaired races, Thabiso Chondo won his heat in the men’s T13 400m event in 56.84 but crashed the ground after finishing and the manner in which he clutched his right hamstring was slightly worrying.
Meanwhile South Africa will have representation in both the men’s and women’s singles tennis finals on Wednesday.
Francois Kellerman beat Lesotho’s Kukutula Motlojoa 6-3 6-3 to face Malawi’s Lumeta Chisoma in the final after the latter had beaten Zimbabwean top seed Ronzai Saurombe.
Then second seed Katie Poluta beat Rufaro Chirewa of Zimbabwe 6-3-6-1 to set up a final against top seeded Valeria Bhungu after the Zimbabwean had beaten the second South African in the draw, Caitlin Herb, 6-1 6-1.
The boys doubles are also in the semi-finals as are the girls who had a walkover on Tuesday.
Wednesday sees athletics continuing at White City, aquatics getting underway at the Bulawayo Pool and boxing’s finals will also be fought out. The women’s football side were due to take on Namibia in what should have been a gold medal formality but that match has now been moved to Friday morning after issues over the Botswana team’s eligibility.

In the netball picture, SA’s Charmaine Baard shoots for goal against Swaziland, watched by Dénielle van der Merwe, right and Jo Prins in the background.


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