Cape Town - It was a silver medal that still felt like a gold as South Africa’s women’s fours bowls team pushed world champions Australia all the way in their Commonwealth Games final, going down 18-16.
According to the Team SA website, for Esme Kruger, Nicolene Neal, Johanna Snyman and Elma Davis, this represented the biggest moment of their careers. And, as the youngest of the quartet, 30-year-old Snyman, said, ‘We showed a lot of fighting spirit to get back. This is definitely my best achievement. If you had asked us before the tournament started whether we would have accepted a silver medal if we were given one, then I’d say yes.’
Davis, the team’s experienced skipper, who picked up a bronze medal in the women’s triples at the 2016 World Championships, was quick to chip in.
‘We came here to win!’ she laughed.
‘We thought we could get a medal, those were our expectations. But you can never be sure, because the sections are so strong. But, we lived up to our expectations and won the silver.’
That they certainly did and it wasn’t up until the penultimate end of the match that the crowd at the Broadbeach rink, baking under sunny skies, was able to break out into the familiar war cry of ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi!’ There was a major swing on that end when the hosts picked up three shots to go from 15-12 up to 18-12 with one end to go.
‘At this level, you can’t afford to drop three shots right at the end. It’s not easy to get a six,’ said Davis, who admitted that it was the first and only time in the match that South Africa suspected they might have to settle for silver. As it was, they came right back and drew four shots on the final end, to make it 18-16.
It was an absorbing encounter that see-sawed, first with South Africa jumping out to a 3-0 lead after two ends before Australia picked up four shots at the third and after another three at the fifth, they suddenly had a 9-3 lead after six ends. ‘We tried to play the length that we are used to but Australia also managed to find that length,’ Snyman, who played third, said. ‘But, at 9-3 down we refused to give up and kept believing we could win.’
What happened next quietened the home crowd. South Africa picked up seven shots over the next three ends to nudge ahead 10-9 after nine ends and with six to play, it was game on. Australia surged back to again take control at 14-10 after 11, before that lead was cut to 14-12 after 12 ends. It was then the 14th end that all but sealed the destiny of the medals.
Advance Australia Fair blared out over the sound system afterwards, but there were no tears or distraught faces from the South Africans. Indeed, they were all smiles, clutching their silver medals tightly and you get the impression they won’t let those shiny gongs out of their sight for quite some time.