With a tight points table leaving little wriggle room, the equitation is a familiar one for Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse in the race for a top three finish in the ANZ Premiership netball league.
The top three teams will advance to the Finals Series.
By winning their last six outings on the trot in a variety of different ways, the defending champions have dug themselves out of a hole to be well placed in second spot on the standings with three rounds of the regular season remaining. But in the closest of competitions, nothing is yet set in stone.
Coming into their third clash of the season with the Magic in Hamilton on Sunday, the message from Pulse coach Yvette McCausland-Durie is simple.
``Must win,’’ she said. ``We’ve got to take maximum points to give ourselves the best chance. Other teams will do what they’re going to do and that (winning) just allows us not to rely on other people.
``We haven’t got enough of a points differential at this stage to probably push for that No 1 spot. We’d get there by points rather than goal differential, so we’ll just keep trying to control what we can.’’
With a win apiece, each by a solitary goal in their previous two match-ups, McCausland-Durie is focussed on ball movement and possession from the Pulse to break the impasse. In this year’s league, the coach thinks shooting percentages and ball retention have been the big improvement areas across the teams.
``When we’re really strong, in terms of our movement on attack and using ball speed, we seem to get a much better flow,’’ she said.
``Defensively, it’s hard everywhere to get ball. Every shooting combination is pretty solid, so we need to reduce our loss rate. It’s an area we’ve done well in before but weren’t so good at over the weekend.
``So it’s about being better with the ball that we’ve got, getting some good ball movement on attack, and just keep applying pressure on defence. We’re getting better at that but we just need to find ways to get little tips on balls and create some turnovers.’’
With all teams being hit by injury and illness during this year’s shortened league due to the upcoming Netball World Cup (including three double-headers for each team), the coach was happy to come out of a tricky double-header on the road with back-to-back wins in the last round.
``Yeah, really pleased to get the six points, that was the ultimate goal,’’ she said.
``I was really pleased with how they responded to pressure. Everyone is chasing wins and it’s just a matter of holding our nerve under pressure.
``We were definitely tired because that was nine games we’d played in a month, so I think this little bit of a refresh we’re having this week will help. They can see the end and they can see where they’re heading but there’s still room for improvement. I don’t think we’ve hit our best potential yet.
``We fell away a bit in terms of our loss rates, so there’s some little things to tidy up but pleased because they didn’t get stressed, they stayed composed and found a way so overall they’re pretty good. Most importantly, they’ve all been available for selection and that’s huge.’’
Busy Central Manawa captain and well-travelled midcourter Jazz Scott was recently confirmed as the replacement for Ainsleyana Puleiata, who suffered a season-ending injury earlier in the campaign.
``Jazz has worked hard to get the opportunity,’’ McCausland-Durie said. ``She’s been in Manawa a long time, she’s their captain and her ability to play all three midcourt positions was really valuable for us. And important because we wanted to find somebody from our group.’’
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