Last year's runners-up, the North West Flames, ran riot against the Northern Cape Diamonds in their Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League match at the Standard Bank Arena on Saturday night.
The Flames beat the Diamonds 76-22. The Diamonds fared best in the first quarter, where they scored nine goals to 18 for the Flames, but after that, they were unable to score more than five a quarter.
At halftime, the Flames were 41-14 ahead.
Flames coach Elsje Jordaan said the one-sided match gave her the opportunity to blood some of her younger players.
'I was able to play my 18-year-old, Bianca van Lelyveld, as goal-shooter for the second half. Last year she was in matric, and she hadn't even played on a sprung floor before,' said Jordaan.
'I was able to try out some different combinations and work on some aspects of our attack.
'We had a few good passes, but our lack of height played a big part,' said Diamonds coach Elfreda Luyt.
'Our big problem is the vast distances our players have to travel. Some of them came 500km on bad roads to get to our practice last Wednesday. Our next match is first thing tomorrow morning, so I won't have much time to talk to the team before that.'
Defending champions the Jaguars won their Gauteng derby against the Fireballs by 46-36 in a fast-moving, physical match. The goals went with the centre pass for the first few minutes before the Jaguars pulled ahead to lead 15-7 at the first interval.
The Fireballs fought back in the second quarter, outscoring their northern neighbours by 13 goals to nine to trail 24-20 at halftime. In the third quarter, they closed the gap to two goals, but the Jaguars stepped up a gear and extended the goal difference to 10, making it very difficult for the Fireballs to come back. The Jaguars won the quarter by 11-8.
Although the Fireballs lost the final quarter by just one goal, it was too little too late.
'I don't think the score was a true reflection of how tough the match was,' said Jaguars coach Jenny van Dyk.
'I thought Izette Griesel [centre] and Jasmine Ziegelmeier [goalkeeper] were particularly good and our 18-year-old, Danielle van Zyl, made a big difference when I brought her on as goal attack.'
Dorette Badenhorst said her players needed to be more confident in their ability. 'We came back well in the second quarter, but we need to be able to get over umpiring decisions that don't go our way and move on,' she said. 'I need to motivate the players to show what they can do.'
The Western Cape Southern Stings overpowered the Eastern Cape Aloes 69-24 in and stretched their lead as the match continued.
The Stings, who finished fourth last year, were like a well-oiled machine and increased the pressure with every quarter. Their shooters were accurate and the centre court players kept the circle well-supplied with the ball.
'I didn't expect such a big win, but we achieved our objectives,' said Stings coach Annelie Lucas. 'We played our slower players in the first half. Our aim was to wear them down and then put on our faster players in the second half, when they couldn't keep up.
'I'm also very blessed to have very consistent shooters - it didn't matter who I put in the circle, they scored. That was brutal,' sighed Aloes coach Des Neville.
'They started very enthusiastically, then when things went wrong, they weren't able to turn things around. Our shooters weren't consistent enough, but we did manage to reduce our penalties and increase our intercepts.
'It's early days in the competition, but we have two of our toughest matches in the second week.'
The Aloes play last year's runners-up, the North West Flames, on Sunday.
The match between two of the weaker teams in the competition, the Mpumalanga Sunbirds and the Limpopo Baobabs, turned out to be a thriller, with the Baobabs squeaking home 46-44.
The Baobabs won the match in the first quarter, when they outscored the Sunbirds 13-8. Thereafter, the Sunbirds won the second quarter 12-10, shared the third 12-all and won the fourth 12-11.
The final quarter had the small crowd on their feet as the Sunbirds first drew level and then ahead of the Baobabs. The lead changed hands several times and both coaches called for time-outs to discuss tactics.
'There was a lot of pressure on both teams,' said Baobabs coach Jenne-lee Delport. 'It was a 'must win' for both teams.
'My players stuck to their game plan for most of the match until they got tired. I was a bit worried in the final quarter, when the Sunbirds caught up, but we came through in the end.'
Marli Nel, the Sunbirds coach, said the match had been a morale booster for her team, who were thrashed 58-16 by the Western Cape Southern Stings on Friday night.
'I loved how both teams wanted to get right into the match from the start. My players were so down after last night, but I was proud of the way they fought.
'It was a very tough match. I brought on my tallest player, Walene Scholtz, as goal shooter in the final quarter, and she definitely made a difference,' said Nel.
'I would have preferred a win, of course, but I am very happy with the way they played.'
The Free State Crinums came from behind to inflict a heavy 55-35 defeat on the Kingdom Stars.
The Stars started off well, and at one stage were four goals ahead of the Crinums. At the end of the first quarter, they had a 10-8 lead, but the Crinums hit their straps in the second quarter.
Four unanswered goals saw them first draw level and then take the lead over the team from KwaZulu Natal.
The Crinums were all over the Stars and won the quarter by 20 goals to seven, for a halftime lead of 28-17.
The defenders on both sides succeeded with some outstanding intercepts and rebounds.
The Stars fought back in the second half, but the damage had been done. 'I made some changes in the third quarter, and the bench players made a difference,' said Stars' coach Madri Maritz.
'They allowed the Crinums to run away from them in the second quarter, and heads dropped, but after that, the differences were not so great.'
Crinums coach Burta de Kock said she had not been worried when her team lagged behind in the first quarter.
'I knew what they could do, and they had the hunger to win. I brought some new players this weekend and I am very pleased with the way the youngsters performed,' she said. 'What we have to work on is urgency and confidence. I think this win will help to boost that.'
Free State Crinums 55 (41) Kingdom Stars 35 (26); Limpopo Baobabs 46 (35) Mpumalanga Sunbirds 44 (32); Western Cape Southern Stings 69 (35) Eastern Cape Aloes 24 (13); Gauteng Jaguars 46 (24) Gauteng Fireballs 36 (20); North West Flames 76 (41) Northern Cape Diamonds 22 (14)