The Silver Ferns believe shutting down star Australian shooter Caitlin Bassett could be the difference in tonight's second test in Auckland.
The Ferns defence have spent this week analysing Bassett's skills after she came off the bench and almost sparked Australia to victory in the first test in Melbourne on Sunday.
After being injected in the final quarter, Bassett quickly cut New Zealand's lead from six goals to two, prompting fears of yet another last-minute crumble.
“We were very determined not to let that happen because we've done it too many times in the past,” Ferns defender Leana de Bruin said.
Bassett, the 1.92m tall West Coast Fever weapon, nailed 15 from 17 and is expected to start tonight, possibly preventing veteran Catherine Cox from reaching the 100-cap milestone.
“Cat might not even get a gig,” Australian goal attack Natalie Medhurst said.
“She might stay on 99.
"Wouldn't that be cruel?”
Australian coach Lisa Alexander made it clear there was no room for sentiment as her side look to avoid their first series loss to New Zealand since 2004.
“It means nothing at all,” an unapologetic Alexander said.
“It's always about performance.
"It's a bonus if she gets there.”
Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic defender de Bruin was a major factor in getting under the skin of the Australian shooters, who missed 14 attempts, but even she admitted Bassett was a difficult prospect and the Ferns had to ensure they reacted quickly.
“She does make a difference.
"We've learnt to combat their short sharp style but she brings a different dimension,” de Bruin said.
“They feed her very well, so we've got to look at what we do outside before it actually hits the inside of the circle.
“We've worked on a few things so we know what to expect when she comes on court. We didn't adjust quickly enough last time.”
De Bruin was also conscious that home court and the presence of more than 9000 fans would provide an advantage for the Ferns.
“Australia always come back fighting.
"I'm expecting them to do a lot better than the last game. We might as well use that atmosphere to our advantage and take it to them,” she said.
Injured Ferns captain Casey Williams got through a full-contact 15-minute session yesterday and was positive about leading her side tonight.
“It was good this morning. I played a whole quarter,” she said.
Williams was not concerned by the prospect of Bassett starting and therefore having a greater influence on the contest.
“There's a lot more lifted ball going into the circle which feeds into our hands,” she said.
Whether she plays tonight or not, Williams was keen to clinch the series and avoid a decider in Christchurch on Sunday.
“That would be ideal. The plan is to be 2-nil,” she said.
- © Fairfax NZ News