Southern Steel trying to stay ahead of improving chasing netball pack - May 16, 2017
by SCOTT DONALDSON
The Southern Steel may still be undefeated in the national netball league, but they are trying to stay ahead of the chasing pack.
Their last two winning margins have been four and six goals, as they try to stave off their improving rival combinations in the competition, where teams are becoming increasingly familiar with each other's game play.
The southern netball franchise's latest ANZ Premiership victory was a tight 65-61 win over the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic in Rotorua, after a more comfortable 13-goal buffer the first time the two teams met in round three of the competition.
While the Steel will be hard pressed to better their 90-41 thrashing of the Tactix in round four, the 43-point turnaround with their round seven 61-55 victory over their bottom placed opponents shows that the other teams are lifting their games as they try to stop the Steel juggernaut.
According to Southern Steel coach Reinga Bloxham, teams are analysing their opponents after the early rounds of the competition as they play each other three times in the 13-round competition.
"The first round of games has been played and we are well into the second round now, so I think lots of teams have done their homework and had a look at each of the teams they are coming up against," she said.
"It is a little bit of knowing and strategising what you can do to try and break that down, I think a bit of that is coming into play now."
Their latest hard fought victory against rivals the Magic showed that the Waikato-BOP combination have the ability to foot it with their southern rivals.
The Magic won two quarters, while shooter Lenize Potgieter finished with 46/49 at an impressive 94 per cent shooting success rate, Grace Rasmussen picked up game high 20 goal assists and 41 feeds, while goal keep Kelly Jury grabbed eight intercepts as the Magic put the Steel under pressure.
"At times we had some really good flow on attack and we didn't get a lot of ball on defence, so we had to work really hard to get anything we could, we had to make sure we looked after it," Bloxham said.
"They have always had that in them, I think what they are doing better than at the start of the competition is that they are just more consistent with what they are doing."
"They have got some classy players, they are now managing to put a better performance out there on court, I think that is the difference."
The Southern Steel have won all nine games this season and look forward to a 10-day break before their next match against the Pulse in Porirua.
The Pulse combination are in a mid-table tussle with the Magic and Mystics, with all three teams fighting for a spot in the top three finals.
"It is another big game for us," Bloxham said.
"It is quite a big turnaround for us, so I think it is timely, it gives the girls a longer rest and a longer break, and we just need to make sure we use it wisely and come back fresh."