“And the seniors close it in style,” said Uganda Netball Association after Mary Cholhok Nuba powered an inspired Ugandan side to stun hosts, South Africa, beating them by two goals to secure fifth spot at the Netball World Cup 2023 in Cape Town on Sunday.
Nuba became the 4th player for Uganda to win the Player of the Match Medal.
Others who won the medal include Shadia Nassanga (thrice), Margaret Bagaala and Irene Eyaru.
Revenge is a dish best-served cold
“The She Cranes serve a cold dish of revenge to the hosts South Africa to become Number One in Africa. The high-flying ladies are now 5th in the World according to rankings. Highest ever finish for Uganda,” tweeted Denis Onyango, former Uganda Cranes goalkeeper.
While the Proteas secured a two-goal victory over the She Cranes in their final group game just three days earlier, the rising Ugandans got the better of them in the same fifth-place playoff almost a year ago to the day at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Coming into the match, Uganda were already guaranteed their highest-ever finish at a Netball World Cup – their previous best being seventh place in 2019 – and they took another massive step up in 2023, dethroning the South Africans as the top side in Africa with a 49-47 victory.
The Ugandans came out showing their intent, turning over the first centre pass and racing to a four-goal lead before the South Africans could register on the scoreboard.
Multiple unforced errors from the jittery Proteas saw them losing unnecessary possession and they spent much of the first period playing catchup. By the first break, the hosts had managed to close that gap to just one goal.
Uganda continued to throw everything at the home side, with goal attack Shadiah Nassanga eventually receiving a warning for repeated obstruction just before halftime, which the teams reached all tied up at 23-23.
The She Cranes came out looking the hungrier of the two sides in the third quarter which proved to be the decisive one.
They took their time in their attack, with Mary Cholhok and Irene Eyaru doing the business in the circle, and made the Proteas work hard for their goals.
The Ugandan defence did an excellent job of putting pressure on the usually reliable Nichole Taljaard, the star of South Africa’s draw with New Zealand earlier in the week. The goal attack was not at her best, throwing away plenty of balls and was pressured into taking fewer shots than normal.
Uganda headed into the final break with their noses in front but the Proteas managed to level matters at 40-40. The home team couldn’t push on from there, however. Yet another unforced error from the South Africans allowed Uganda to edge ahead and this time they didn’t look back, surging five goals in front at one stage.
The She Cranes still held a two-goal lead heading into the final two minutes, and they slowed things right down, looking to hold on to possession to wind down the clock, and so securing a memorable 49-47 victory.
A thrilled Ugandan coach, Fred Mugerwa, said afterwards: “The match went the way we wanted it to go. When we went into that match my last words to the players were that we shouldn’t make the mistakes we made in the first match we played against South Africa because we gave them a lot of respect and because of that they went ahead by many goals.”
He added: “When we tried to catch up with those goals, which we did, by the fourth quarter we were very tired and could not go beyond. So, this time I told them we should start on a very high note and that’s where we should end and today, the game would not be over until it was over with the final whistle. Indeed, this is exactly what they did and we eventually won so I’m very pleased with my girls that they listened to the instructions.”
She Cranes captain, Irene Eyaru, said: “On behalf of the team I’m so, so proud because we have been looking for a way of beating South Africa right from the word go. We wanted to show the whole world that Uganda is the best team in Africa… we decided to play our hearts out on the court and if it means to die on the court, we would die.”
MALAWI 64 – 54 TONGA
Following their 56-51 win on Thursday, the Malawi team triumphed again against Tonga on Sunday to finish seventh at the Netball World Cup 2023 in Cape Town.
NEW ZEALAND 45 – 52 JAMAICA
The Sunshine Girls gave their nation, even more, to celebrate on Jamaican Independence Day when they defeated five-time champions New Zealand to claim the bronze medal at the Netball World Cup in Cape Town on Sunday.
Jamaica have played in six World Cup bronze medal matches since 1991 and won three of them but all of those victories have come against England.
FINAL PLACINGS AT THE NETBALL WORLD CUP 2023:
Gold – Australia
Silver – England
Bronze – Jamaica
04. New Zealand
06. South Africa
12. Trinidad & Tobago
16. Sri Lanka
Credit: Netball World Cup