Sport Netball Netball: Crunch time as Diamonds seek to make World Cup their own
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Netball: Crunch time as Diamonds seek to make World Cup their own

Gretel Tippett and Sarah Klau of Australia celebrate the win over New Zealand. Photo: Getty
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Australia has never lost to South Africa, it’s opponent in Saturday night’s (AEST) World Cup semi-final, and after the recent scare against New Zealand the Diamonds coach believes her players will knuckle down to keep it that way.

Lisa Alexander says it’s now it’s crunch time, but she’ll be taking nothing for granted.

Alexander said the intensity of the New Zealand encounter was the perfect lead-in to the knockout finals, having kept her strongest seven layers on the court to ensure they were accustomed to the big-match pressure.

“I think it was important for that group to stay out there, knuckle down and make sure they got that win under their belt,” she said.

“New Zealand threw everything at us, lots of different combinations so that’ll be great analysis for us later on.”

Should they make it through to the final, the 11-time champion Diamonds would defend their title in Liverpool against either New Zealand or improving hosts England.

Australia beat the Silver Ferns 50-49 in a thrilling match on Friday morning, while England were more comfortable in the other clash dispatching South Africa 58-47.

England’s Geva Mentor summed up her nation’s lead-up to the semi’s saying:  “We were really pleased with that performance and how it sets us up for the semi-final on Saturday.”

Before meeting New Zealand, Australia had won five matches against minnow nations Northern Ireland, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Barbados and Malawi by large margins.

It is the sort of record that makes Diamonds’ fans swoon, but also points to a lop-sided competition that has had trouble firing the imagination in the wake of tight contests at the cricket World Cup.

“It’s not necessarily conducive to great television watching,” Alexander told the ABC after the match against Sri Lanka. “We might need to look at that.”

Australia meets the Proteas in the semi-finals first on Saturday – to be televised at 8pm on NineGo – followed by the England-New Zealand showdown.