World champions New Zealand survived a scare from Uganda for a 54-44 victory to record their second win at the Netball World Cup 2023 in Cape Town.
The Silver Ferns have now won all four of their World Cup encounters against the She Cranes.
New Zealand were pushed to their limit in the first two quarters by their African opponents.
Centre Margret Baagala worked hard in mid-court to move the ball through to the Ugandan goal circle, providing enough good scoring opportunities for goal shooter Mary Cholhok.
The Silver Ferns however were not to be outdone, with Grace Nweke standing tall in the circle on the other end of the court, making sure she landed her shots.
New Zealand went into halftime with a four-point lead, despite only having a third of the possession. It was their superior goal shooting, 92.3 per cent compared to Uganda’s 83.3 percent, that gave them the edge.
In the third quarter, Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua brought on the experience of Jane Watson, Gina Crampton and Te Paea Selby-Rickit to prevent the first upset of the World Cup.
Watson and South African-born Karin Burger proved a lethal combination on defence, starving the She Cranes of crucial ball in their attempt to close the growing gap on the scoreboard.
Even though it was goal-for-goal scoring in the last five minutes of the match, the world champions outmuscled the She Cranes for a vital victory.
Uganda will rue the chances they missed and not remaining calm under pressure to get the better of their more fancied opponents.
Baagala, who was the most valuable player in Friday’s victory over Singapore, played all four quarters for Uganda. She was once again a standout player for her.
Taurua credited her side’s strong defensive effort as an important part of the Silver Ferns’ victory.
“Our systems are set and we are fine-tuning what to do against certain opposition. I’m happy with how things are starting to settle and the progress we are making. That’s something we’ve discussed, that all 12 need to be ready in the combinations so that we can keep building and pose something different to the opposition.”
Despite the loss, Ugandan coach Fred Mugerwa said he believed his 15-player squad, of which 13 players are making their World Cup debuts, will be on top of the world at some point.
“As a country we have talents. The only problem is the lack of exposure. Apart from the few warm-up matches we had here in Cape Town, our only preparation back home was against men’s teams which were quite physical. Today we played our hearts out and we really wanted that win. Next time we shall do it.”