Uganda stun South Africa to secure fifth spot while Malawi finish seventh
An inspired Ugandan side stunned hosts South Africa, beating them by two goals to secure fifth spot at the Netball World Cup 2023 in Cape Town on Sunday. In the playoff for seventh place it was Malawi who got the better of Tonga.
SOUTH AFRICA 47 – 49 UGANDA
Hosts South Africa played Uganda in an all-African showdown for fifth place at the Netball World Cup on Sunday. While the Proteas secured a two-goal victory over the She Cranes in their final group game just three days earlier, the rising Ugandans got the better of them in the same fifth-place playoff almost a year ago to the day at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Coming into the match, Uganda were already guaranteed their highest ever finish at a Netball World Cup – their previous best being seventh place in 2019 – and they took another massive step up in 2023, dethroning the South Africans as the top side in Africa to secure fifth spot with a 49-47 victory on Sunday.
The Ugandans came out showing their intent, turning over the first centre pass and racing to a four-goal lead before the South Africans could register on the scoreboard. Multiple unforced errors from the jittery Proteas saw them losing unnecessary possession and they spent much of the first period playing catchup. By the first break, the hosts had managed to close that gap to just one goal.
South African coach Norma Plummer switched Bongi Msomi to wing attack and the taller Izette Griesel to centre at the start of the second quarter as the South Africans slowly started swinging the momentum in their favour. But while the defenders earned plenty of turnovers – Jeanté Strydom particularly impressive in stealing two centre passes – the Proteas’ attack struggled to convert those into goals. Uganda continued to throw everything at the home side, with goal attack Shadiah Nassanga eventually receiving a warning for repeated obstruction just before haltftime, which the teams reached all tied up at 23-23.
The She Cranes came out looking the hungrier of the two sides in the third quarter which proved to be the decisive one. They took their time in their own attack, with Mary Cholhok and Irene Eyaru doing the business in the circle, and made the Proteas work hard for their goals.
The Ugandan defence did an excellent job of putting pressure on the usually reliable Nichole Taljaard, the star of South Africa’s draw with New Zealand earlier in the week. The goal attack was not at her best, throwing away plenty of ball and was pressured into taking fewer shots than normal.
Uganda headed into the final break with their noses in front but the Proteas managed to level matters at 40-40. The home team couldn’t push on from there, however. Yet another unforced error from the South Africans allowed Uganda to edge ahead and this time they didn’t look back, surging five goals in front at one stage. The She Cranes still held a two-goal lead heading into the final two minutes, and they slowed things right down, looking to hold on to possession to wind down the clock, and so securing a memorable 49-47 victory.
A thrilled Ugandan coach Fred Mugerwa said afterwards: “The match went the way we wanted it to go. When we went into that match my last words to the players were that we shouldn’t make the mistakes we made in the first match we played against South Africa because we gave them a lot of respect and because of that they went ahead by many goals.
“When we tried to catch up those goals, which we did, by the fourth quarter we were very tired and could not go beyond. So this time I told them we should start on a very high note and that’s where we should end and today, the game would not be over until it was over with the final whistle. Indeed this is exactly what they did and we eventually won so I’m very pleased with my girls that they listened to the instructions.”
She Cranes captain Irene Eyaru added: “On behalf of the team I’m so, so proud because we have been looking for a way of beating South Africa right from the word go. We wanted to show the whole world that Uganda is the best team in Africa… we decided to play our hearts out on court and if it means to die on court, we would die.”
South African coach Norma Plummer said afterwards: “Congratulations to Uganda. They kept possession of the ball, unfortunately, we wasted too many balls and you can’t afford to lose those sorts of balls. The game is possession and that’s where you win it. They took it to us, and they deserve the win in the end.”
Captain Bongi Msomi added: “We obviously wanted to win, it was very important to try and give it our best shot and maintain our ranking. Like Norma said, we just gave away too many balls. Kudos to them, they played really well today. Disappointed obviously, I still need to go back and try and feel this, at this point, I don’t even know what to feel.”
Vice-captain Karla Pretorius said: “Just very disappointed with our result but it comes back to ourselves, we didn’t play the way were supposed to. They just put us under a lot of pressure and against a team like this, you don’t win a lot of balls and you need to capitalise on it, and we did not do that today. So it’s really disappointing, we really wanted that win.”
Q2: 23-23 (12-11)
Q3: 37-39 (14-16)
Q4: 47-49 (10-10)
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Mary Cholhok (Uganda)
MALAWI 64 – 54 TONGA
Following their 56-51 win on Thursday, the Malawi team triumphed again against Tonga on Sunday to finish seventh at the Netball World Cup 2023 in Cape Town.
Tonga managed to establish a three-goal lead midway through the first 15 minutes by creating open spaces to move the ball into their goal circle. Defenders, Kelea Iongi and Lose Fainga’anuku, made things challenging for the Malawi shooters.
Malawi launched a strong counterattack, with Joyce Mvula and Mwai Kumwenda making sure of their attempts at goal. The Queens caught up and even took a two-goal lead, leading 17-16 by the end of the first quarter.
Tonga made changes to their starting lineup in the second quarter, introducing Salote Taufa at centre and veteran former Australian Diamond Mo’onia Gerrard at goal defence. Malawi increased their pace and Mvula’s movement out of the circle to collect passes led to more possession for Malawi. This allowed them to build a comfortable five-goal lead within eight minutes.
Malawi’s first substitution occurred just before halftime, with Jane Dambo replacing Grace Mwafulirwa on wing defence. This intensified pressure on Tonga’s attack, and Malawi led 33-29 at halftime.
The battle between centres Takondwa Lwazi and Hulita Veve continued in the third quarter. Both had been standout players for their teams throughout the tournament, excelling in both attack and defence.
Tonga improved their structured play and defence in the third quarter, closing the gap to just one goal after seven minutes. They outscored Malawi 15-12 in the quarter, keeping their hopes of victory alive.
Malawi’s line-up remained unchanged going into the fourth quarter, as the coaching staff stuck with what was working well. In the final seven minutes, Malawi secured more ball possession for their shooting circle and pulled ahead. With two minutes remaining, their lead stretched to 10 goals, which they maintained to the final whistle, so securing seventh spot in the tournament.
Malawi captain Jane Chimaliro said her side were satisfied with the victory.
“We are feeling good, we are happy that we’ve finished seventh. We failed to get position five so we are not happy about that. The competition was very tough from day one and we tried our best. I thank the girls that they managed to control the last quarter… The fans in the stands were there for us.”
Tongan goal defence Mo’onia Gerrard remained proud of her team’s performance at what is only their second Netball World Cup and said: “It was tough but I think we put it on ourselves to be honest.
“This is our first campaign but we’ve had a taste of it during the championships, so I guess it’s character-building. I guess the girls now know they can’t just rely on their natural talent but they’ve got to put in extras at home to get to this point.
“But considering where we came from – like absolutely nowhere – it was an absolute dream of mine for Tonga to even get to a championship, to a World Cup. It’s just a great feeling and a great start for what our little nation can do.”
Q2: 33-29 (16-13)
Q3: 45-44 (12-15)
Q4: 64-54 (19-10)
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Mwai Kumwenda (Malawi)