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Scrappy Ferns hold off South Africa

NZN 31/08/2016 By Cathy Walshe

It wasn't quite the dress rehearsal new Silver Ferns coach Janine Southby wanted.

Four days out from their netball quad series decider against Australia in Melbourne, it took an unconvincing last-quarter resurgence for the Silver Ferns to secure a scrappy 65-46 win over South Africa on Wednesday.

But Southby, in just her second game at the helm for New Zealand, was happy enough with the way her team dug in for the win.

"It was good to get that more physical game on the body and I think that's really good prep for when we go over to Australia," she said.

"But we know Australia's going to be another step up from that as well, so we need to be a lot sharper with our start and settle into our combinations a lot quicker."

After hammering England 65-39 three days earlier, the Silver Ferns were expected to be equally clinical against the world No.5 Proteas.

Instead the Kiwis were punished for a sloppy start and struggled for much of the game to assert any sort of dominance over the stubborn South Africans.

"We just didn't get the connections going, we just didn't get the flow and I think that unsettled us," Southby said.

With South Africa leading 16-14 at the first break, Southby pulled starting centre Shannon Francois, replacing her with hugely experienced Laura Langman and bringing on Kayla Cullen at wing defence.

Jane Watson took over from Phoenix Karaka in joining skipper Katrina Grant in the defensive circle.

It took a 7-1 run midway through the second quarter to give the Kiwis a precarious three-goal lead, a margin they stretched to 32-27 at halftime.

Proteas coach Norma Plummer was particularly pleased with her team's first-half performance and now wants to see that consistency over four quarters.

"We're trying to learn to handle the pressure and intensity - it's small steps but big steps in another way in that we haven't been that close before," she said.

New Zealand struggled with their through-court connections and while solid defensive work generated plenty of turnover ball, too often it was lost in the attacking third.

Ahead 46-38 at three-quarter time, the Silver Ferns finally opened out to take the final spell 19-8.

Mes and Ameliaranne Ekenasio missed just three of their 22 shots on goal in the last quarter, while Potgieter and Lindie Lombard could manage only eight from 10.

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