By Spy Uganda
Uganda beat South Africa for the second time in a year in a major tournament when the She Cranes ran out 49-47 victors over the Proteas to finish in 5th position at the Netball World Cup 2023 in Cape Town.
The same happened last year at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in the playoff for 5th/6th position where Uganda also walked away with victory over South Africa.
Although there’s been no official word yet, it was probably the last time captain Bongi Msomi, Karla Pretorius and Phumza Maweni represented the Proteas.
It was a tentative start by both teams with loose passes going astray and opportunities at points on the board not taken. It was Uganda who opened the scoring in the second minute through a goal by goal attack Shadiah Nassanga.
The normally reliable Nichole Taljaard lost three vital balls, giving the advantage to Uganda who moved it straight back down the court to Nassanga and goal shooter Mary Cholhok to convert, and the score to four-null in favour of the She Cranes.
It took a while, but the Proteas finally settled their nerves and found some rhythm and levelled the scores halfway through the opening quarter. With the momentum swinging slightly in South Africa’s favour, Cholhok was gesturing to her Uganda teammates to remain calm.
It seemed to work as Uganda capitalised on South Africa’s errors, turning over vital possession. The lead switched hands again and the She Cranes went into the first break 12-11 up.
On the sidelines, Uganda coach Fred Mugwera at times seemed to question a number of umpire calls, jumping out of his seat and throwing his hands up in frustration.
Msomi and Izette Griesel switched positions at the start of the second quarter with Msomi moving to wing attack and Griesel to centre. There were no changes for Uganda.
Uganda continued to disrupt South Africa’s play with a strong defensive effort, getting hands and bodies in the way. The Proteas also weren’t helping themselves with overcooked passes and unnecessary errors with the little ball they had.
In the final minutes before halftime, play continued to be scrappy at times. South Africa wing defence Jeante Strydom made a brilliant intercept giving the Proteas the opportunity to level the scores. Goal shooter Elmeré van der Berg however wasn’t successful with her attempt.
Nassanga copped a warning for deliberate obstruction just before halftime, giving South Africa a vital turnover and the opportunity to score and go to the halftime break with the scores level at 23-all.
South Africa continued with the same seven at the start of the third quarter while Eyaru moved to goal attack for Uganda and Sarah Nakiyunga came on as wing attack.
The teams continued to trade blows as the game moved up and down the court with the lead changing hands several times. Taljaard, who scored the spectacular equaliser against New Zealand earlier in the week, was not at her best, guilty of poor placement choices that resulted in turnover ball to Uganda. This the She Cranes easily converted into points and when the hooter sounded, they were leading 39-37.
Going into the last 15 minutes of the match, Uganda were continuing to enjoy the lion’s share of possession (60 per cent) and it was left for South Africa to play catchup.
Three minutes into the fourth quarter, Khanyisa Chawane replaced Griesel on centre after the latter was involved in a heavy collision with her Uganda opponent. Taljaard scored another important equaliser (40-all) with 10 minutes left in the match, and it was all to play for.
It got quite feisty and testy at times as the match was nearing its end but it was the She Cranes who managed to keep their nerves. They stretched their lead to five goals and were on course to get the better of the Proteas for the second time in a year at a major tournament.
With four minutes left, Taljaard was replaced by Owethu Ngubane on goal attack and with Uganda just two points in the lead. All the She Cranes had to do was keep the ball in hand, and this they successfully did, preventing South Africa from any scoring opportunities. It was clever play from Uganda that secured them the victory and 5th place at the World Cup in Cape Town.
Most valuable player: Mary Cholhok (Uganda)
Quarter scores: 11-12 / 23-23 / 37-39 / 47-49.