The Vitality Roses beat the South Africa SPAR Proteas 53-59 at the Bellville Velodrome, Cape Town, to win the test series with a game to spare.
This victory was England’s second of this three-match test series after a dramatic, hard-earned 58-63 victory on Friday evening after 14 minutes of extra time.
Despite the intensity of the previous encounter mere hours earlier, the Vitality Roses started this game with an equal level of ferocity and quickly found themselves two goals up after Jade Clarke won the ball from the hosts’ first centre pass.
The ball was efficiently worked up towards goal shooter Eleanor Cardwell who scored the first goal of the game before she doubled her side’s advantage just moments later.
Both of these teams showed great tenacity in their previous meeting and South Africa effectively bounced back from going behind.
They were back level after two minutes thanks to an interception from Shadine van der Merwe and the attacking prowess of Lenize Potgieter at goal shooter.
The high tempo continued from both sides throughout the first quarter and this was met by a roaring reception from the crowd inside the arena, who were seeing a repeat of the bronze medal match at the Vitality Netball World Cup.
Like in Liverpool, this remained a close affair but Jess Thirlby’s side edged the first quarter by four goals after Cardwell – one of the Vitality Roses’ star performers on Friday – put the visitors 12-16 up at the end of the first 15 minutes.
Now under the management of Dorette Badenhorst, the SPAR Proteas brought on Sigi Burger at goal shooter and moved Potgieter to goal attack in a bid to reduce the four-goal deficit.
Thirlby responded with a change of her own and brought Razia Quashie on at goal keeper with Fran Williams coming off and Stacey Francis moving to goal defence.
By scoring all 15 of their attempts at goal in the second quarter, the home side did manage to get within touching distance of their English counterparts by half time as the game began to open up.
At the other end, Cardwell and Kadeen Corbin’s relationship around the shooting circle proved troublesome for a highly-talented South African defence with the latter regularly feeding the ball into her teammate to score.
At the end of the second quarter, just as they had done the previous day, the Vitality Roses went into half time in front and had a two-goal cushion to take into the second half of proceedings in Cape Town.
After the interval, Cardwell came off for Geroge Fisher at goal shooter. The Saracens Mavericks player looked fresh and made a sizeable impact thanks to her strength and movement within the circle.
Her brilliant record, however, was being matched by Burger at the other end of the court and the home side momentarily crept ahead to make it 34-33 midway through the third quarter.
The Vitality Roses showcased their mental resilience to secure a victory on Friday night and showed this strength once again by responding to this set-back by getting themselves back in front.
A good spell for England saw them restore their two-goal advantage, ending the third quarter 43-41 in front but the tight scoreline once again set up another nail-biting final quarter for these two great teams.
Nine of the South African squad were present at the Vitality Netball World Cup in the summer and their experience showed in the final 15 minutes as they continued to keep within touching distance of the opposition.
They found themselves level at 48-48 with just nine minutes remaining but the momentum of the match changed dramatically with an interception from Fran Williams. Corbin scored the resulting goal which was the first of four in a row for the away side.
Attention then turned to the defensive end of the court but South Africa found themselves up against the impressive Francis, who has shone in the two games thus far.
Natalie Panagarry and Williams came off the bench for the final few minutes inside the Bellville Velodrome. These introductions helped limit their opponents in front of goal and allowed their teammates to extend the lead to six in the dying embers of this encounter.
Two more Fisher goals in the remaining seconds ensured that it would be the Vitality Roses that would walk away winners with a scoreline of 53-59 in part to some inspired changes from Thirlby.
After another tightly contested affair, the Vitality Roses will get a chance to end the series with a flourish when they face South Africa on Sunday 1st December at 11am (GMT).
You can watch the final game of the series live on Sky Sports or via their official worldwide YouTube stream.
When the tense three-match series comes to an end, South Africa and the Vitality Roses will face each other once again at the Vitality Netball Nations Cup in January. Tickets can be purchased for the series on home soil here.
Vitality Roses starting seven: Stacey Francis (GK), Fran Williams (GD), Laura Malcolm (WD), Jade Clarke (C), Natalie Haythornthwaite (WA), Kadeen Corbin (GA), Eleanor Cardwell (GS).
SPAR Proteas starting seven: Phumza Maweni (GK), Shadine Van Der Merwe (GD), Khanyisa Chawane (WD), Izette Griesel (C), Bongi Msomi (WA), Lefebre Rademan (GA), Lenize Potgieter (GS).