A gallant second-half fightback from South Africa was not enough to prevent Australia from claiming a spot in the Netball World Cup final with a 55-53 win.
Australia started stronger helped by four intercepts in the first quarter and took a 14-10 lead into the second period.
Diamond’s Goal Shooter Caitlin Thwaites was on song sinking 30 goals from 30 shots in a clinical performance that was the difference between the two sides.
The Proteas were penalized more heavily than Australia something attributed to the Diamonds using their experience and playing off the umpire.
Australia took a 31-23 lead into half-time and looked to have the match sewn up but Norma Plummer still had a few tricks up her sleeve.
South Africa adapted to the Aussie game and as the penalties equalized the Proteas fought their way back into the game, outscoring their opponents 16-12 in the third quarter to cut the Diamonds lead to four.
The Proteas would outscore Australia again in the fourth quarter but just failed to haul in the defending World Champions.
With ten minutes left, Lenize Potgieter reduced the deficit to one (45-44) and the already electric atmosphere in Liverpool was cranked up another level.
Two crucial Australian interventions – the first by Liz Watson and the second by Jamie-Lee Price – looked to have put the game firmly back in Australia’s grasp, but the Proteas weren’t done, and again came back to 50-49.
Falling short of the final by such a narrow margin the Proteas will look back on every missed chance and think of what might have been but they gave an excellent account of themselves and the tournament isn’t entirely over.
Australia’s Jo Weston said:
“We’re happy to make the final. It was pretty tough out there – their shooting circle and their defensive line were really impressive today, so although we weren’t as happy as we could have been with the second half, we had enough lead from our solid first-half performance to hold them out.”
South Africa’s Erin Burger said:
“I’m super proud. We knew we were representing our country and we had a lot to play for, and I think you could see that in our performance. We really left everything out on court – we wanted to have no regrets, and you could really see that in our performance.”
The Proteas still have an opportunity to meet their goal at the Netball World Cup, which was to earn a medal.
They will play in Sunday’s Bronze medal match against the losers of the second semi-final between England and New Zealand.