The Roses finally got the better of South Africa on Saturday in Durban but it took a first ever extra-time in the Netball Quad Series to separate the sides as England sealed a 60-55 victory.
An eleven goal advantage for the visitors at half-time seemed to have the Roses well on their way to a win, but a phenomenal comeback from the Proteas saw the sides level at 48-48 after 60 minutes.
Two additional seven-minute halves were required and England held their nerve, to the disappointment of a large home crowd, and join Australia at the top of the Quad Series table.
A strong starting seven was named for the Roses with former Australian Diamond, Chelsea Pitman making her debut at WA.
The experienced defensive duo of Geva Mentor and Ama Agbeze were hoping to blunt the South African attack.
It was a fast start made by the hosts as they moved into a 4-1 lead, capitalising on the new England attacking combination taking some time to gel.
Excellent pressure from Mentor and Agbeze allowed the Roses to claw their way back into the quarter and a beautiful drive from Kadeen Corbin allowed the shooter space under the post to put the visitors 11-8 ahead at the end of Q1.
The momentum was with the Roses and Pitman was working superbly with Jade Clarke in the second quarter to feed the shooters and extend the lead.
Helen Housby was starting to find her range too and England had moved 28-17 clear at half-time when the NSW Swifts shooter beat the whistle to net.
With a large gap, the crowd’s initial excitement had settled and the volume had dropped. Five minutes into the second half and they were whipped into a whole new frenzy.
Eight unanswered goals from the Proteas put England on the back foot. South Africa were one step quicker, one second smarter and one move ahead when the second half started.
The Roses were firmly on the back foot and Tracey Neville introduced Ellie Cardwell for Corbin in a bid to halt the hosts charge.
Lindie Lombard was terrorising the England defence and since her arrival at half-time, the hosts had fresh impetus. A fine finish from the GA pulled her side just one behind the Roses.
It took a converted turnover and another last second Housby goal to again quieten the crowd and provide England with some relief. The advantage was 38-34 heading into the final quarter.
Fresh legs were called for as Jodie Gibson and Natalie Haythornthwaite entered the action for Agbeze and Pitman respectively.
It didn’t have the immediate impact that was desired and a Cardwell contact on Karla Mostert allowed Lombard to level the game at 40-40.
With South Africa converting another turnover a taking the lead midway through the quarter, Agbeze and Corbin were called back into action.
The game was up for grabs and with Mentor on the rebound, the Roses pulled level at 46-46 with three minutes to go.
England were a turnover down when a loose ball in the final third was punished by the hosts. However, another wonderful Mentor grab allowed Housby to level at 48-48 with a minute remaining.
The Proteas had the centre-pass and worked the clock down before launching an attack. In flew Mentor and Agbeze as England won the ball back.
With six seconds to go, the Roses pushed forward but a couple of contact calls from South Africa pushed the clock to zero and with it remaining at 48-48, extra-time was required.
A single turnover in an edgy first half of extra-time from Agbeze allowed Housby to push England ahead. The gap was three at the break as the Roses held their centre-pass.
Final score: South Africa 55-60 England (aet)
England starting 7: GS – Housby, GA – Corbin, WA – Pitman, C – Clarke, WD – Cobden, GD – Agbeze, GK – Mentor
South Africa starting 7: GS – Potgieter, GA – Stoltz, WA – Msomi, C – Burger, WD – Mthembu, GD – Mostert, GK – Maweni
Umpires: Jonathan Bredin and Lisa McPhail with Jemma Carlton as reserve
Report courtesy of England Netball