Australia beat South Africa to reach Vitality Netball World Cup final
By Paul Prenderville, M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool
Last Updated: 20/07/19 4:42pm
A much-changed Australia made it through to their eighth World Cup final, but survived a huge scare against a South Africa team playing in their first semi since 1995 to eventually win 55-53.
Coach Lisa Alexander insisted that the Proteas had not been underestimated, maintaining her changes that included captain Caitlin Basset not playing and influential duo of Kelsey Browne and Courtney Bruce being dropped to the bench had reflected South Africa's strengths.
With little to separate the two teams early on, Alexander's strategy looked vindicated but only after a couple of late turnovers in the first quarter saw the Aussie Diamonds pull four clear and then extend their advantage to eight at 31-23 by half time.
But chasing a historic place in the final, South Africa stormed through the third quarter to half the deficit and then twice drew to within a single goal of drawing level in a dramatic final 15 minutes.
However the Aussies, for whom Basset's replacement Caitlin Thwaites did not miss a single shot, hung on to remain on course for yet another World Cup crown.
"I think that it's important to tell everyone that those players that started were our starting seven and we chose them specifically to play South Africa and do really well," Alexander told Sky Sports post-match.
"So, there's no starting seven it's a matter of matching up on what our opponents bring us.
"We certainly didn't take South Africa lightly and to be able to bring such great quality players back onto the court when it was needed was fantastic."
The Australian Diamonds will face New Zealand in Sunday's final after the Silver Ferns saw off hosts England 45-47 in the second semi.
Coverage of the Netball World Cup final will be live on Sky Sports Netball from 2pm on Sunday, while Sky One and Sky Sports YouTube channel will also broadcast the game.