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Scrappy Ferns hold off South Africa

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 31/08/2016

Jane Watson of New Zealand celebrates with the team after winning the International Test match between New Zealand Silver Ferns and South Africa Proteas. © Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images Jane Watson of New Zealand celebrates with the team after winning the International Test match between New Zealand Silver Ferns and South Africa Proteas. It wasn't quite the dress rehearsal new Silver Ferns coach Janine Southby would have 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.

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.

The long arms of rangy goal keep Phumza Maweni kept athletic shooter Bailey Mes honest, sparking a couple of early turnovers.

Shooter Lenize Potgieter's long-range accuracy and patient work in the attacking third from skipper Bongi Msomi and centre Erin Burger gave South Africa an unlikely 16-14 lead after 15 minutes.

Southby had seen enough.

She pulled starting centre Shannon Francois at the break, 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.

As a result, the Ferns drew level four minutes later but Norma Plummer's Proteas refused to give over.

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.

Plummer made a few changes of her own, bringing on another rangy circle defender in Zanele Vimbela and replacing Msomi with Izette Lubbe at wing attack.

New Zealand continued to struggle 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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