Plenty on the line for Pulse against table-topping Steel
March 22, 2019
With pole position up for grabs, Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse have the opportunity to steal a march on the field in Monday’s much-anticipated ANZ Premiership netball showdown against the Southern Steel in Wellington.
Unbeaten, an improving Pulse will lock horns with an on-song Steel, who sit top of the table courtesy of playing an extra game. The Steel do have an opening round loss in the debit column but that has largely been forgotten, the southerners having since roared into life in emphatic style.
The two combatants have set the early pace this year, the pair winning two games apiece against each other last season with the Steel claiming the one that mattered when they chased down the Pulse in the closing minutes to snatch a thrilling one-goal win in the Grand Final.
For the Pulse, there’s no lingering hangover heading into Monday’s rematch.
``We just start again,’’ Pulse coach Yvette McCausland-Durie said. ``In the back of everyone’s minds, they’re aware that the Steel, whether it was last year, the year before, or years before that, are a very strong team.
``They are somewhat unchanged, they’ve got balance throughout their court. They’ve got some really strong combinations and links, so were well aware of the strengths that they have.’’
After a solid start to this campaign, the Pulse delivered their most accomplished outing of the season against the Northern Stars in the previous round. A purposeful attack line gave ample evidence of their quality while backing up a defensive unit that has played well all season.
Defensively the best to team in the league so far, the Pulse will be up against the best attacking side, McCausland-Durie confident her side can step up on all fronts for the top-of-the-table clash.
``We have been a little bit erratic but I felt in the Stars match we started to find a bit more consistency,’’ she said. ``There’s a strong belief in the game plan, the group is committed to it and, again, it’s just the simple stuff at really critical times that we’re continuing to work hard on.’’
With their preferred option of playing at pace, most teams try to slow the Pulse’s momentum wherever possible. The home side will continue with that ploy, strong decisive drives and movement along with skill execution being key, in the coach’s mind.
Isolating the Steel’s experienced attacking line of Shannon Saunders, Gina Crampton and Te Paea Selby-Rickit is also of particular importance, the trio’s instinctive rapport always a threatening presence.
``The key for us is each of us owning our own job on defence,’’ McCausland-Durie said. ``Allowing them to play together is playing into their hands, so our ability to really work hard on our own individual player and make them have to work for ball will create some indecision and timing change.
``They’re sitting at the top of the table, they score well and if we compare ourselves against teams they’ve played, bar the Stars, they’ve probably out-performed us in areas, so we’re aware it’s going to be a really, really tight tussle.
``It’s the combination links they have, the patience they have on attack and their ability just to keep running through and getting hand on ball that can unsettle us, so, from a skill perspective, individuals have to ensure they own their job.’’