New England Netball head coach Jess Thirlby labelled her side “naïve” in the shooting circle but relished seeing their grit as they earned an extra-time victory over South Africa.
The Vitality Roses led 28-23 at the break but the Proteas overhauled the gap and won the third quarter to have a 40-39 advantage going into the final stages.
South Africa continued to extend their advantage in the fourth quarter, but England pulled themselves back into the game and had a chance to win in the last minute of play.
But with the scores deadlocked at 51-51, the contest went to extra time and it was the Roses who clinched a 63-58 victory in the first of their three Tests at the Velodrome in Cape Town.
And Thirlby, who was taking charge of her first game as head coach since replacing Tracey Neville, admitted there needs to be plenty of improvement in the upcoming Tests.
“It couldn’t get much tighter. There’s so much to work on but it was a real test of character for both sides,” Thirlby said.
“There was very little between the two sides. I do think it was just moments where we were able to pull away with a few goals lead and then South Africa pulled it back on many occasions.
“There were too many runs of goals against us and that’s something we’re going to have to rectify for tomorrow.
“I loved getting an insight into the match winners in the group and it was great to see them really grind that out.
“In those moments where we were really put under pressure by south Africa, we knew it was going to be physically really tough and we got caught up in that battle at times.
“I felt we were a little bit naïve in the shooting circle, but I felt we did see some change in that, and the girls really had to work through it.”