Johannesburg - The Proteas achieved their best ever result against Australia in their SANZEA Quad Series match at the Copper Bowl in London on Saturday.
The Australian Diamonds won the encounter 54-50, for their smallest winning margin over South Africa and the Proteas, who were 26-25 ahead at halftime, forced them to step up a gear in the final minutes to clinch the victory.
Australia won the first quarter 15-12, but the Proteas never let the Diamonds get away from them, with the goal difference never more than four goals.
With two minutes left in the second quarter, goalshooter Lenize Potgieter scored to bring the Proteas level on 24-all. The two teams exchanged goals, and then, with 20 seconds left in the first half, Potgieter scored again and the Proteas were 26-25 ahead at half time. They won the second quarter by 14 goals to 10.
The Diamonds brought on two new shooters in the third quarter, with Caitlin Bassett and Susan Pettitt replacing Caitlin Thwaites and Gretel Tippett, and they gradually drew back into the lead. They were 38-36 ahead at the end of the third quarter.
In the final quarter, Australia stepped up a gear as they fought to retain their dominance over the Proteas. But the South Africans were not giving up and threw everything they had into the match.
Midway through the quarter, they once again drew level with the world champions on 45-all. The Australians fought hard and in the final five minutes of the match, began to pull away from the Proteas, with a succession of five unanswered goals.
Potgieter and goal attack Maryke Holtzhausen came back with their own flurry of goals, before Bassett and Pettitt scored three in succession. With 15 seconds to go, Holtzhausen scored to limit the goal difference to four.
Goalkeeper Phumza Maweni had an outstanding game, with a number of intercepts, while wing attack Bongi Msomi appeared to be everywhere on the court.
Her performance earned the South African captain the player of the match award.
"I am so proud of the team," said skipper Msomi.
"Every time we step on the court against the top teams, we reduce their winning margins. I am also very proud that we played at the same intensity for the full hour. We are growing with every match, and we believe we can beat the very best," she said.
"It was such a great team performance that I would like to divide this medal, so that we can all share it."
Proteas coach Norma Plummer was delighted with the team's performance, particularly as they had not played any internationals since the last Quad Series tournaments in New Zealand and Australia, while the two top teams had both played a number of Tests.
"We used to lose by 50 goals," she said.
"The top teams need to look out - South Africa is right up there with them."
The Proteas take on the New Zealand Silver Ferns at the Ellis Park Indoor Arena at 7 o'clock next Thursday evening.
They play the England Roses at the same venue at 14:30 on Sunday. Tickets are available from Computicket.