The England Roses sealed a best ever Netball Quad Series finish this afternoon as a 52-47 success over South Africa confirmed second spot in the table.
A dominant Australian Diamonds victory over New Zealand earlier in the day guaranteed that the World Champions would be regaining the trophy.
However, the Roses still had plenty to fight for and will be proud of their battling display in Johannesburg to see out a win and keep momentum heading into the Commonwealth Games.
The visitors mixed-up their starting 7 with Natalie Haythornthwaite and Eboni Beckford-Chambers making their first start of the tournament.
There was no period of tentatively testing the waters for either side as each team went full throttle from the first whistle.
A passionate home crowd was making plenty of noise for every Proteas goal, steal and possession.
Within ten minutes the arena fell silent as England took control. Led by the imperious Geva Mentor in defence, the Roses halted the African attack and continued to score freely.
A late Lenize Potgieter goal had the home fans back on their feet as England’s lead was cut to 16-13 at the end of the opening fifteen minutes.
The visitors’ advantage was quickly reduced to one as South Africa capitalised on an attacking contact to convert turnover ball.
It was becoming an increasingly fractious game on court as every rebound was fiercely contested. A fired up Serena Guthrie and Beckford-Chambers earning a word or two from the umpires.
England remained the more composed and Helen Housby was on hand to increase the lead as the away defence secured plenty of possession. At half-time the Roses were 30-22 ahead.
The tempo remained high in the third quarter as pressure from the defensive unit forced an offside from the hosts and Housby converted.
With the lead now in double figures, South Africa needed to respond. They did just that Phumza Maweni won rebound ball to push her side forward.
A switch was made for the Roses with captain Ama Agbeze introduced at GD to halt the opponents charge. A number of turnovers from each side went unpunished as the quarter was shared and England remained eight clear, 43-35 heading into Q4.
Backed by a buoyant home support, the Proteas sniffed a comeback win early in the final quarter with five unanswered goals drawing them to within three.
Kadeen Corbin replaced at Haythornthwaite in the shooting end but took the GS bib as Housby shuffled into GA.
The brief delay and change to the attacking unit worked as the Roses started to look more assured from centre-pass.
The re-introduction of Beckford-Chambers at GD also worked in disrupting a free flowing Proteas attack.
South Africa continued to press and with the gap at four with four minutes on the clock, it took a crucial steal from Mentor in the circle to finally give England some much needed breathing space.
Clever use of the ball and a slowing of the tempo as the away side transitioned though court allowed England to see out a nerve-jangling victory and with it a highest ever finish in the tournament.
With the Commonwealth Games on the horizon, the Netball Quad Series has shown that the Roses will be serious contenders and that the gap at the top of the world rankings is narrowing between all of the top nations.
South Africa Starting 7: GS – Potgieter, GA – Holtzhausen, WA – Msomi, C -Burger, WD – Mthembu, GD – Pretorius, GK – Maweni
Roses Starting 7: GS – Housby, GA – Haythornthwaite, WA – Pitman, C – Clarke, WD – Guthrie, GD – Beckford-Chambers, GK – Mentor
Umpires: Michelle Phippard and Jono Bredin with Terrence Peart as reserve
Report courtesy of England Netball