Cathrine Latu had been a big talking point last week, but the burly Silver Ferns shooter will be dodging any criticism heading into the finale of the Quad Series.
The 1.89m shot sinker has come under fire for some sub-par efforts in this series, but tonight in Mt Maunganui she showed plenty of her class in the Ferns' 63-24 victory over South Africa.
After an average effort on her 26th birthday against England last Thursday, Latu was superb in her time on court against the Proteas.
For the first time in the series she wasn't given a start, but she produced a brilliant second half display at TECT Arena, sinking 27 from 27 to guide New Zealand to their biggest win of the series.
Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu gave 40-year-old superstar Irene van Dyk her first start of the series, and in her 210th test, put in a wondrous display in the first quarter, shooting 14 from 14.
She showed superb athletic ability with just seconds left to flick a ball back in court and allow the Ferns to score again to take an 18-5 lead to quarter time.
The Ferns had an awesome start to the match, putting an amazing nine goals together before the Proteas finally nailed their first after nearly seven minutes.
It just emphasised the gulf in class between the two sides, and New Zealand were by no means at their slickest either.
Camilla Lees threw a couple of average passes early, while Maria Tutaia missed three shots in the opening stanza.
South Africa started regular goal shoot Chrisna Bootha, who has been one of their best throughout the series, at goal attack and gave Melissa Myburgh the GS bib.
But midway through the stanza, Bootha left the court, replaced by Maryka Holtzhausen, before she returned at the start of the second quarter in her familiar goal shoot position, with Myburgh benched.
The Proteas limited the damage somewhat in the second period, with the Ferns shooters not seeing quite so much of the ball.
Nearing halftime, Katrina Grant left the court after falling flat on her stomach, which had been upset prior to the game.
That gave Leana de Bruin a chance to strike up the Magic combination with captain Casey Williams, and the Ferns went to halftime ahead 31-10.
The customary halftime changes again came into effect, with Taumaunu getting Latu and Jodi Brown into the shooting circle, with Kayla Cullen relinquishing the wing defence bib to Anna Harrison, who made a brilliant start with a fine intercept after just 10 seconds.
She continued her fine work through the third quarter, committed in her play on both defence and attack, where she was patient and took some great options.
The Proteas introduced Karla Mostert at goal defence in place of captain Amanda Mynhardt and while they helped pressure Brown into missing her first two shots, they struggled to contain Latu, who sunk all of her 12 attempts, giving the Ferns a 47-15 buffer at three-quarter-time.
For the final 15 minutes Bailey Mes got on the court after not being used in the previous two matches.
She came on at wing attack with Lees shifting to centre and giving vice captain Laura Langman her first rest of the series.
Grant also returned to the fray, with de Bruin to goal defence and Williams taking a seat on the bench.
The Proteas continued their switches too, with Mynhardt and Mostert swapping again, but there was no stopping Latu, who reeled in some tricky passes and showed some sleight of hand which had been missing recently.
Meanwhile, in the earlier game, the Australian Diamonds produced a dominant display against England, winning 57-35.
The Diamonds and Ferns clash in the last round of the series in Hamilton on Thursday.
Silver Ferns 63 (18-13-16-16)
South Africa 24 (5-5-5-9)
- © Fairfax NZ News