Silver Ferns fired up for semi against England
NATHAN BURDON IN GLASGOW
The Silver Ferns will use the disruptions of the past week as extra motivation ahead of tonight's Commonwealth Games semifinal against England.
The Ferns have advanced from group play despite losing Ellen Halpenny (ankle), Maria Tutaia (foot) and Cathrine Latu (calf) from their shooting circle for games against St Lucia and the tough 50-42 win over Jamaica which decided the top qualifier from Pool A.
New Zealand coach Wai Taumaunu hopes to have at least one of either Tutaia, who has been sporting a moon boot and crutches this week, or Latu for the England game.
Halpenny, who has done well to recover from her ankle sprain, and Jodi Brown both worked the circle well against Jamaica, but failed to break the 80 per cent shooting accuracy which would be considered par, at best, at international level.
Silver Ferns captain Casey Kopua, who was outstanding in the win over Jamaica along with her partner in the defensive circle Leana de Bruin, said adversity had its benefits.
''Just as a group we've come together really well, sticking together as a tight unit.''
Ferns coach Taumaunu was proud of the character shown by her players at a time when their title credentials were under scrutiny.
With England pushing Australia to the brink in the other pool, and a Jamaican team with enough depth to start with Romelda Aiken on the bench, there were question marks over whether New Zealand was capable of winning a medal of any colour, despite winning the past two Commonwealth Games golds.
''We were down to nine players two or three days ago,'' Taumaunu said after the Jamaican win.
''That does really make you wonder if you are going to get through because we were only halfway through. There was a lot of resolve and digging deep amongst the group. In one sense it's been disruptive, in another sense I think it's really brought us together.''
England arrived in Glasgow with ambitions of at least making the gold medal final after winning bronze at the last three Commonwealth Games.
With five players plying their trade in the trans-Tasman league, including influential contributors like defenders Geva Mentor and Eboni Beckford-Chambers, shooter Jo Harten and midcourter Jade Clarke, they will be confident of claiming a major scalp after almost upsetting Australia in pool play.
The Silver Ferns will look to put pressure on the English shooters after both Harten and Kadeen Corbin failed to break 80 per cent in their one-goal loss to Australia.
A positive for New Zealand has been the improving form of wing attack Liana Leota, a player who arrived at the Commonwealth Games searching for the game fitness to compliment her undoubted ability with the ball.
Leota has got better with each game, Taumaunu said.
''That experience, that wise head and her game knowledge can't be underestimated and it's the reason that she's here.''
Kopua believes the Silver Ferns made a statement with their win over Jamaica.
''I'd say, hopefully they are scared after that. [I'm] looking forward to that challenge. Obviously they are very accurate shooters and the physical [defence],'' she said.
''[We are] just making sure we use our ball work, keep things sharp, but keep things simple at the same time.''
AT A GLANCE (All NZ times)
Commonwealth Games semifinals: Silver Ferns v England, 9pm Australia v Jamaica, 11.15pm.
Finals: Bronze medal match: 9pm Gold medal match: 11.30pm.
NZ v England head to head: Played: 81 Wins: NZ 76; England 3; Drawn 2.
Most consecutive wins: NZ 41; England 1.
Last five meetings: 2014 NZ 49 def England 32 2012 NZ 57 def England 46; NZ 61 def England 43 2011 NZ 53 def England 32; NZ 62 def England 40.
KEY MATCH UP
LEANA DE BRUIN
Silver Ferns goal keep
NZ caps: 74
England goal shoot
England caps: 57
After spending a season playing and training together at the Magic, de Bruin's ability to put the brakes on England's main shooter will be vital. The Silver Ferns managed to limit Jhaniele Fowler-Reid, can they do the same with Harten?