Australia has booked its spot in the Netball World Cup semi-finals, after flattening South Africa 66-31 in their second qualification match at Sydney’s Allphones Arena.
Following a dramatic few days for the Diamonds punctuated by a shock loss to New Zealand, it was back to business for the defending world champions on Wednesday night.
The merciless win maintains Australia’s perfect record against the world number five Proteas.
But more importantly, it guarantees the hosts a top-two finish in Pool F, with world number four Jamaica shaping as likely semi-final opponents – a far more attractive option than a re-match with the second-ranked Silver Ferns.
Coach Lisa Alexander rested a large proportion of her big-game starters against a South Africa outfit mentored by former Australian coach Norma Plummer, who was in green and gold of a different variety and coaching for the first time against players she took to world titles glory in 2007 and 2011.
Captain Laura Geitz, Caitlin Bassett, Natalie Medhurst, Kim Green and Julie Corletto all sat on the bench, making way for youngster Paige Hadley among others to stretch their legs.
The 22-year-old Hadley again proved what a force she will be in the future with immaculate movement and some pin-point circle feeds to goal attack Erin Bell and shooter Caitlin Thwaites.
Australia were well on their way in the first quarter, leading 23-5 at the first break.
The margin only blew out further in each of the next three terms as Thwaites and Bell both shot near-perfectly, the latter sinking 33 from 35 attempts.
Thwaites, who back in 2012 potted 30 from 30 on international debut against the same team, was not far off the pace, scoring 33 from 38.
Sharni Layton’s flawless timing at goal keeper and goal defence yielded seven intercepts and five deflections as she thwarted South Africa’s spearhead shooter Lenize Potgieter.
Incredibly, South Africa were penalised 64 times for contact compared with Australia’s tally of 28.