JOHANNESBURG (9 May 2016) – The Golden Fireballs once again proved they are deserving of their place in the Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League as they remained on course for a place in the playoffs following Round 5 at the Ellis Park Indoor Arena this past weekend.
Michael Vlismas – The Fireballs gained a huge confidence boost when they ran the Gauteng Jaguars close, eventually losing 58-52 against the team that have been finalists the past two seasons.
And it’s a measure of their confidence that Fireballs coach Elsje Jordaan feels this was a match they should have won.
“I was very proud of the way the team performed but we were disappointed because there were a lot of unforced errors on our part. We started off by missing our first centre pass and from there we had to play catch-up netball all the time. Catch-up netball is high-risk netball because you need to take more chances. But that’s how my players learn and grow. There were four Proteas in that Jaguars team and the way my players stepped up to that challenge was very pleasing,” said Jordaan.
After seriously underperforming the past two seasons, the Fireballs were under pressure to justify their place in the Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League.
A coaching cleanout resulted in Jordaan taking up the challenge with a new management team and some new players. And it’s a challenge she’s excelled in as she’s honed a group of players that are starting to believe they can compete with and beat the league’s top teams.
“I think we’ve surprised a few people by the way the Fireballs have come back this season. We came into the season with a bit of uncertainty following a tumultuous past two years. But there was excitement about the challenge ahead. We said from the start that this season is about establishing our own brand and making everybody see that Gauteng deserves to have the two teams in the Brutal Fruit competition.
“As coach I wanted my players to believe they are not the B team of Gauteng or the players who weren’t able to make the Jaguars team. I wanted them to believe in themselves more, and to play their own brand of netball. I’m now getting SMSes from players saying they’re proud to be Fireballs players. That’s what I want – that heart from my players.”
The Fireballs set themselves the target of a place in the semi-finals in 2016, and it’s a goal they’re still on track to achieving.
“Our goal was to reach the semi-finals because once you’re in the Playoffs anything can happen. We’re improving with every week and my players’ belief in each other is getting stronger. It’s hard matches like the one against the Jaguars that helps to strengthen their belief. They’ve realised that they can play against a team that has made the finals the last two years and they only lost by six goals.”
Naturally, Jordaan feels there is still room for improvement.
“Our biggest challenge is to overcome our slow starts. And we also need to improve on our unforced errors because that’s just a case of discipline. But what I feel positive about is that these are all things we can control and which we can work on, and that’s a nice challenge.
“We’re still within the top six teams in the league. The playoffs is a different challenge altogether, and that’s going to be about which team absorbs the pressure best. Now the hard work is to not just get close in the big matches but to start winning them.”
Results (Ellis Park Indoor Arena, Johannesburg):
Southern Stings 60 Aloes 38
Jaguars 58 Fireballs 52
Flames 79 Baobabs 28
Crinums 53 Aloes 42
Fireballs 64 Sunbirds 32
Flames 82 Diamonds 21
Crinums 45 Kingdom Stars 25