Aussie Diamonds shine against South Africa
AUSTRALIA have shaken off five months of rust to overwhelm South Africa 61-44 in the opening match of netball's Quad Series in Auckland.
Struggling for rhythm throughout the first half, the world champion Diamonds came alive after the main break to motor clear of their fifth-ranked opponents.
It was the win and, eventually, the performance that coach Lisa Alexander was after in their first match since losing the Commonwealth Games final to England in April.
Alexander started with the same seven players who were on court for the dramatic last quarter of the final heartbreak on the Gold Coast.
However, they didn't respond.
Trailing early in both opening quarters and struggling for coherency, the Diamonds eked out a 28-24 half-time lead against their committed foe.
The pace picked up in the third stanza, helped by the introduction of midcourter Kelsey Browne in a memorable Test debut.
The 26-year-old brought energy and invention as Australia powered 46-32 clear with a quarter to play, silencing a Kiwi crowd which earlier sensed an upset.
It allowed Alexander to virtually clear the bench for the last 15 minutes and begin her planning for the anticipated Games rematch against England, in Newcastle on Wednesday.
Captain Caitlin Bassett was as classy as ever at goal shoot, landing 31 from 34 before being subbed off late.
The Australian midcourt were guilty of wayward, long passes into the circle and, for a time, it appeared a tight finish loomed.
Australian goal keep Courtney Bruce impressed with eight deflections and four rebounds, narrowly winning a furious battle with impressive Proteas goal attack Lenize Potgieter.
South African coach Norma Plummer was missing some key midourt personnel, forcing her to hand debuts to starting centre Khanyisa Chawane and second-half substitution Jessica Khomo.
The second match on Saturday is to pit world No.2 England against third-ranked New Zealand.