Despite producing a gutsy comeback in the second half on Saturday, the Proteas netball team ultimately fell in a narrow 55-53 defeat to giants Australia in their Netball World Cup semifinal in Liverpool.
Aiming for their first ever victory over the defending champions, the SA team opened the scoring through goal shooter Lenize Potgieter in the first minute and they stayed in touch with the Diamonds for most of the opening quarter, though their opponents burst through in the last two minutes to take a 14-10 lead into the break.
Strengthening their grip on the game, with their forwards delivering a near flawless performance up front, Australia had extended the gap by another four points (31-23) at half-time.
After seemingly losing touch, however, the Proteas came out firing in the third quarter and pulled four points back.
While the Australians retained a 43-39 advantage heading into the final period, South Africa were fired up and it was clear they had no intention of rolling over.
Reducing the gap even further, the Proteas were within one point (45-44) with 10 minutes left in the match, and though the Diamonds pulled ahead again, the SA squad again crunched the deficit to a single point (50-49) with less than five minutes remaining.
Though they fought for every inch in an epic encounter, the Proteas were unable to capitalise on some errors made by Australia in the dying minutes and they could not shut them down before the final whistle.
“The team we put out today was designed to counteract them, but South Africa have come so far over the last few years and this was a magnificent effort to come back,” said Australia coach Lisa Alexander.
“I want to make sure I tell everyone in South Africa that we definitely respected them today.”
South Africa were set to close out their campaign against either New Zealand or England in the bronze medal playoff on Sunday, in search of their first podium place in 24 years at the World Cup.
Remaining unbeaten at the tournament, Australia progressed to the final and they were targeting their fourth successive global title.